An era of irresponsibility and greed is what Barack Obama would have us call it.
I couldn’t agree more. The current problems, especially economic, facing President Obama will become issues on which he has opportunities to prove himself as a leader who can bring change. But it seems Obama has already proven himself in one aspect as a great leader: He has the American people behind him.
He has rallied them to his cause. He has already begun to succeed as president even though he was sworn in less than a week ago. He is a precocious president, gathering the force of the American people in the very beginnings of his term.
The polls are revealing that a substantial majority of the American people is optimistic that Obama will be able to bring change to Washington, stimulating the economy and fulfilling other campaign promises. But the American people are also realistic. They realize the unprecedented complexity and severity of the issues facing the president, and they are prepared to give him some time to fulfill his promises.
Thus Obama has a cushion, space in which to operate. The American people are more optimistic than they were at any of the last five presidents’ inaugurations. This rating crosses party lines, as a majority of McCain voters have also said they were optimistic.
People know that accomplishing big things will take time, and I expect Americans to give Obama around two years to bring noticeable change. This space offers room for Obama, skilled as he is at uniting the American people, to spur even further growth.
But Obama’s desire to bring responsibility and humility to this era of irresponsibility and greed comes with a great deal of responsibility now that he has executive power, and especially since he has a Democratic Congress behind him. If he, with Congress, doesn’t bring evident change within a couple years, there will be no excuses. If that becomes the case, the midterm elections of 2010 could help Republicans bring new change once Obama and the Democrats become the status quo.
Whatever the outcome, Obama already deserves credit for the fact that the American people are optimistic about the coming years and realize how challenging it will be to change the country. His somber tone and deep connection to the American people have enabled him to prolong his honeymoon period — not so he can get away, but so he can act immediately, keeping the American people at his side.
Whether one agrees with Obama’s exact policies, his awareness and accommodation of our pluralistic society are some of the best manifestations of democracy. In Obama’s urging us to step on board with him, we see that his platform is essentially and pervasively democratic, and we are thus urged to form coalitions with all American people.
In his inaugural address, Obama assured us that the problems and threats of our era would be met, regardless of time or effort required. But woven into the speech was the way we will get there: the preservation of “unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” This demands that the perfidy of politics, the politics of politics, be erased and replaced with unity and hope.
To meet the challenges of our day, we must dig to their roots. We must engage nations and problems within our own nation, using our principles and convictions, realizing that the issues we face have, at their roots, certain principles and convictions.
We must fight threats with smart power, not soft or hard power. We must adhere to morals that enhance our democracy. We must bring progress by claiming, first and foremost, that certain virtues are true.
America, with all her problems, threats and failures, is now in Obama’s lap. But he has Americans at his side, making them our issues, not just his. That in itself creates a ground conducive to change, a change that we have realistically set before ourselves.
I am optimistic for the Obama administration, and in that optimism, I am realistic, along with the majority of the American people.
Jared Baragar is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.