Sunday, December 14, 2008

Obama's Greatest Challenge

With the entire world anxiously awaiting the inauguration of Barrack Obama I’ll add my two cents to the meaning of his election as president of the United States.

There’s more at stake here than his being the first person of colour ascending to the most powerful elected position in the world. What’s at stake is optimism versus cynicism and hope versus despair. There’s only so much politicians can do in terms of policy and law making to affect change. True change has to come not from the president, but rather from the people he leads.

There are a multitude of people out there just dying to see Obama’s presidency stumble and fail. Not because they necessarily dislike the man, but because they’re looking for confirmation of their own cynical world view. And trust me on this, there are a ton of cynics out there, you can’t help but run into them everywhere you go. They regard themselves as smarter than the average Joe, and are strikingly condescending in tone:

“Obama makes it sound so easy, but our problems are too deeply rooted and too complex to be solved. Idealism is all well and good until the realities of the world come crashing down upon you”.

The implication is that anyone who’s supportive of Obama is woefully naïve. While thousands may have gathered at campaign rallies across the United States to shout out “YES WE CAN”, nearly an equal number were sitting at home shaking their heads and muttering, “no you can’t”. And when the inevitable bumps in the road occur they’ll be all too quick to point it out:

“See I was right, optimism is all well and good but smart people like me don’t ignore reality”.

And therein lies Barrack Obama’s greatest challenge. The United States is an incredibly divided nation. It’s red state versus blue, north versus south, rich versus poor and secular versus devout. Obama has staked his ground as a great communicator, one who is willing to try and bridge these gaps to find common ground and common purpose. It will not be an easy task as these divisions have been fermenting for years now, exploited for years by politicians and activists stoking the fires of dissension.

A house divided against itself cannot stand, and Obama will need all Americans pulling in the same direction if he is going to get the U.S. ship of state sailing smoothly again. There is a mountain of pain still waiting to be felt from the global economic crisis, of that you can be certain. Obama’s greatest challenge will be in bringing Americans together at a time when many will be looking to point fingers and apportion blame. But laying blame will do nothing to get the United States moving forward, if anything it will only retard its progress.

Is the economic crisis the fault of Washington or Wall Street? Does it really matter when thousands, perhaps millions of people are being displaced from their homes. Will the president be able to rally a people devastated by job losses and a severely depressed economy? I for one am optimistic, yes…I think he can. Much has been made of the fact that Obama lacks the required experience to lead, that he’s built himself up on words, words, words. But words are vitally important, because they can be used to unite or divide, to inspire or to bring about fear.

The world needs the United States to meet the challenges that are awaiting its people. Failure to confront the many obstacles would have far reaching ramifications all across the globe. As the world’s leading economy and only superpower there are many other nations waiting to step in and fill whatever void is left behind, be it the Chinese or the Arab world. And in our globally competitive world the United States cannot afford to have its citizens fighting amongst themselves while other nations eagerly wait to swoop in. That is not the kind of change Obama campaigned on, and its not the kind of change people in the western world want to see.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and I welcome your comments, I read them all. If you think this piece would be of interest to anyone you’re most welcome to pass it along via email or through a social network like facebook.

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