It would be completely inconsistent with the core purpose of this blog not to recognize the events of this week. Notwithstanding your politics, it’s impossible to deny that our nation is both despairing in the economy but hopeful about our new leadership.
Reinforced hope for minorities in America
Colin Powell is among the top three Americans I admire most. Of all that’s been written this week about the inauguration and in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I selected his thoughts to pass along.
In describing his feelings as an African-American after President Obama was elected on November 4:
“I’ll never forget the words that came to me and the words I whispered to an empty room: ‘My God, we did it,’ ” he had said.
On whether America would vote for an African-American candidate for president:
“There were people around the world who said, America is too polarized. We are too split apart. We are too ideologically separated as people, and we can’t come together to do this. And we did it.”
On what General Powell would be thinking on the day he would take the Oath:
“I’m not sure I can capture it all,” Powell replied. “But one: A very, very capable man is coming to the office of the presidency, a man of the new generation, a man I think will be a transformational figure. And he’s fully qualified, and he also happens to be African-American — I put it in that order.”
Reinforced hope for citizens across the ideological spectrum
Apart from the obvious historical significance of the first African-American elected president, the main takeaway for me is the pervasiveness of the upbeat feelings about his election, which has been increasing day-to-day. According to Gallup, 80% of Americans either watched or listened to the inauguration live, and 62% reported that the inauguration made them feel more hopeful over the next four years. A different Gallup poll showed that as of January 9, 72% of the country believes that we will be better off in four years than we are today. Those approval ratings are comparable to those of Eisenhower and Kennedy at their first inaugurals.
Further, simple math says there’s no way you get there without lumping in a whole lot of Republicans. In that same poll, 34% of declared Republicans said they believe Obama will be an above average or outstanding president.
The economy is declining at rate not seen since the Great Depression. It’s a fact that anyone who watches the news with any regularity can play back verbatim due to how consistently it’s repeated. President Obama is inherting an economy in a condition not seen since FDR in 1932. With all the attendant fallout of that it’s truly a remarkable feat that optimism runs as high as it is.
72% of Americans believe we will be better off in four years. The US Census Bureau estimates the US population as of December 31, 2008 at 305.5 million. 72% of 305.5 million is 220 million people. 220 million people, of varying ideologies, who have genuine optimism for their future.
Mr. President, that’s not a bad year’s work. Not bad at all.