The historic election of the country’s first African-American president may be the most important election of the 21st century, signifying a new hope in America and throughout the world.
Not since the 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression have so many Americans yearned for a fresh start. The problems facing President Obama stagger the imagination: two wars, a deep recession, rising unemployment, home foreclosures, and an overall fear among many Americans.
Fortunately, imagination and new energy appear to be abundant in Washington. Many Americans are hopeful that the Obama administration will work across party lines to stabilize our economy and return America to its place as a beacon of hope. The American Dream has never looked more like a rainbow as this symbol of American diversity ushers in a new era.
President Obama set this new tone in an inspiring but sobering inaugural address that reached across the United States and the world. He spoke candidly: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers. . . . To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” We surely needed to hear those words of wisdom these past eight years.
His earlier speech at the Lincoln Memorial described a nation of “every race and region and station” and his “belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled. . . .”
The world watched the new president view the inaugural parade amid a reviewing stand that was about one-third people of color. The parade itself showed off an even broader American rainbow, from traditionally costumed Native Americans to the Lesbian & Gay Band Association. This president clearly wants to represent all Americans and has already proven wise enough to tap diverse talent to help run his administration.
As many civil rights leaders—and even economists—have noted, America’s diversity signifies strength, not weakness. “For we know that our patchwork heritage is strength, not a weakness,” President Obama said, “. . . and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass. . . .”
Gather a dozen diverse Americans in a room to discuss controversial issues and you’ll get a dozen different perspectives. We all see the world from a slightly different angle. The good news is that our president seems ready to lead a complex, diverse America as it regains its footing in the world.
With his economic transition team already hard at work for weeks, President Obama rose early his first full day. What does he do? He calls four Mideast leaders to take that first step toward permanent peace in the world’s No. 1 hotspot, the epicenter of Western-Muslim conflict. If the president can leverage some of his world popularity to help forge a real peace between Israel and the Arab world, we will have won a critical battle in the War on Terror. And we will have done so peacefully. As the president said, “. . . as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; . . . America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.” But it will take all of us to turn his message about the Audacity of Hope into a national dream.
I am optimistic, indeed hopeful, that we can move closer to that dream as a unified country and more peaceful world family. And isn’t it great to have children in the White House again?
A candidate for Houston’s mayor in the November 3 election, Annise D. Parker is Houston’s third-term city controller and one of the highest-ranking openly GLBT-elected municipal official in the U.S. Her webpage is www.AnniseParker.com. To receive the controller’s newsletter, send an e-mail to [email protected]