January 20, 2009 marks a new beginning for the United States. The year itself will become an historical marker for the nation much like 1607, 1776, 1865, and 1945. The English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 marked the possibility of new contacts among a variety of human beings and the onset of multiple crises that tested the culture and knowledge of every person involved. Divisions among British citizens on the island and the new continent showed the product of that initial possibility nearly a century and a half later. Unresolved debates among the body politic in 1776 exploded into internecine warfare that forged the broadest definition of human equality as law, ever. The consequences of the nation’s new commitment to democracy and equal protection compelled a new vision of the world that defeated the ideology of fascism in 1945. As the world debated the viability of democratic free markets on a global scale, a generation of human beings who understood our interdependence endorsed the leadership of a new kind of American president whose insights and policies will guide humanity forward starting now.
President Barack Hussein Obama embodies the joined possibility of Asian, African, and European intellectual achievement. The worldwide acclaim and national political election of his person as world leader is a result of the struggles for human dignity that connected Mohandas Ghandi, William E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, and Rigoberta Menchu. His opportunity in the face of unprecedented global economic, military, and political emergencies will stretch his understanding and praxis of the inheritance he has taken from the greatest leaders who preceded him. By balancing his prodigous abilty to reason with his unparallelled ability to intuit, Obama may chart a course towards a future better than any previous federal executive could imagine.
He could win the War on Terror over the next four years by enlarging the world military commitment to defeat Al Qaeda and its sympathizers. As a reward for military service, soldiers and officers might receive federal assistance to begin new business ventures in the developing world, particularly transportation, communication, and recycling enterprises rooted in an energy-efficient global economy. Creating stronger connections between the World Bank, United Nations, Red Cross, and International Monetary Fund would improve the efficiency of those institutions and increase their collective accountability to the most vulnerable and impoverished nations in southeast Asia, central America, eastern Europe, and central Africa. Canadians, Mexicans, and his own constituents may rally to a vision of the world citizen where engagement in their communities requires connection to the larger world. Educational reform in the European Union and throughout North America could develop methods and strategies of conglomerate and political leadership that began with sacrifice and concluded with a more inclusive idea of profit.
President Obama represents the largest potential turning point in human history over the last five hundred years — the possibility that not only Americans can unite to confront their problems, but that humanity can find more common ground and inspiration to achieve excellence in our lives. I hope he will embrace the largest possibilities of his power in all its facets. I hope that he will remember the restraint and consent that he will need to convince his supporters around the world to do the hard work that lies beyond his ability. Tomorrow, our hope must become work. The reward for our labor will be the achievement of humanity’s First President’s vision.