Words of hope for the President’s second term
Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, marked the beginning of President Barack Obama’s second and final term. The last few years have been interesting to say the least: having assumed office immediately following the world’s worst financial crisis in 70 years and having faced some of the worst partisan opposition in American history, the President’s first term was far from easy. Nonetheless, as 2013 begins, whether you support Obama or not, the United States is undeniably in a much better position than it was four years ago. However, all you need to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the television to realize that our country today is so deeply divided as to make casual conversation and debate almost impossible, let alone consensus-building and compromise. Disagreement need not drive us apart—indeed, Obama said Monday in his inaugural address, “being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness.”
Obama’s first inauguration four years ago was a moment of supreme hope. It was a special moment that made me proud to be an American, it demonstrated just how much better we as a people can become over a few decades. It also reminded me that America as we know it is a work in progress that will continue to change dramatically over the future, ideally becoming a more inclusive and accepting place. Expectations for America’s first black president, an intellectual man elected on a platform supremely of hope and optimism, were unmatchable and most probably impossible. Those who voted for him sought a president who would superhumanly fix all of America’s woes, real or perceived. He has certainly not done this, but I sincerely doubt that anyone could have. It is only sad that his attempts to do so have built an opposition that places his downfall above all else.
A presidential inauguration is a time for change, as a new commander-in-chief assumes office or the current one refocuses for his second term. I can only hope that both Americans and our government will do the same as we enter into Obama’s second term. Rather than attack one another over deeply-held beliefs that are very difficult to reconcile, let us try to find common ground. This will not happen overnight. It is something that, as a nation, we must work on. That’s fine, however. Of our greatest achievements as a nation, be they scientific, social, humanitarian or political, none happened instantaneously. Neither did the current partisan political climate.
So just what am I asking for? It can be summed up with one word: patience. Patience with one another and patience to sit down, hear ideas and think about them. The patience to sit down and talk with those with whom you disagree, the patience to learn about each other’s views and the patience to discover what we as a people have in common. We are a wildly different and incredibly diverse people. Our identity was not built overnight, and neither will our future. It will take time, effort, pain and resolve. But we are a fluid and adaptable people, meeting change head-on and answering whatever challenges society places before us. In the words of our president: “We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.” I believe that we will act, that we will change and that we will face the future successfully.