“However long the night, the dawn will break.” ~African Proverb
Dawn. I often give the light of the new day the shaft … a bad rap … an unfair assessment. It is no secret that I am not, and will likely never be, a morning person. At the age of three weeks, when I was adopted, my parents were warned: “Good luck. She has her nights and days confused.” Not much has changed. Still, even I, the lover of the nocturnal, must confess that there is a level of hope that comes with the rising sun. A new day. A new beginning. Alas! It would seem that I am not only daybreak challenged in regard to hauling my body out of bed each morning but that I possess an aptitude for missing the metaphorical dawn as well. A fresh start pertaining to me, personally, could reveal itself to me in the most astonishing fashion and I would likely miss it. Perhaps I enjoy the dark, the literal night as well as my own melancholia, a little too much. C’est la vie.
I am not completely blinded by the light. I promise. Personally, yes, I cover up my face (or wear sunglasses) in protest that my eyes are being burned by the glare of a new day. I do, however, recognize new beginnings within my family or my friends or my business and, more relevantly, my country.
It is the dawn of a new era. My eyes are open. And, I do have hope.
At first, I did not. In the beginning I was less than enthusiastic by either person presented forward as a choice for my next president. I was even less thrilled by their respective running mates. My lack of enthusiasm was not prompted by age or race or sex. Simply put: neither individual was my first choice and I was a wee bit disappointed. As an individual who has never voted party lines … I was torn. But, a decision had to be made. It was. I still had my reservations regarding both candidates as I went to the polls but vote I did. Voting is a privilege and a right and a responsibility that I never intend to abuse and I was not alone as record numbers of voters cast their ballots on November 4, 2008.
Yesterday the world tuned in to witness the outcome of that election as Barack Obama was sworn in as the forty-fourth President of The United States of America. I tuned in with them … still slightly skeptical … but hoping.
“Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.” ~Anne Lamott, American Author
One can not deny that change must come to this country and it must come rapidly. Unfortunately, I am quite positive that many things will get worse before they get better. This is not good news. As a single working mother who may … MAY … scrape into the bottom tier of the “lower middle class” demographic, I do not know how I will make it if things do, indeed, get much darker. I need hope.
No man is a miracle worker. Presidents are human. Speeches are designed to tell us that which we want to hear. But, if President Obama sticks to his incredibly aggressive agenda, then I expect that the change needed will slowly spread throughout this country. I listened with great intent and I heard much in his inaugural speech.
To my relief, there was a much needed call for accountability throughout this nation from the single citizen to the major corporation to the government itself (“… our collective failure to make hard choices …” “… greatness is never given. It must be earned.” “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.”). Whew! Ambitious! For we are – ashamedly - a nation populated by individuals (not everyone, obviously, but a large majority) and corporations who predominately believe that it is acceptable, nay preferable, to not accept responsibility for one’s actions. The blame game. ‘Tis popular, no? Popularity does not make it right.
“Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.” ~Australia, Film (2008)
President Obama issued a summons … a dare … a challenge to the American people that must be heard throughout this land:
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
It is this call, more than any other promise made, that gives me hope. I stand staring at the rising sun on the horizon and I hope that “we the people” are finally prepared to accept the responsibilities that have been bestowed upon us as members of the human race. As a believer it is important to me that we do love one another (Romans 13:8), show great respect (1 Thessalonians 5:13), and motivate one another (Hebrews 10:24). I’m not here to preach. You don’t have to be a believer and follow Biblical principles in order to know that we must have respect for our fellow man. We do, indeed, have a responsibility to one another.
I had dinner with a friend last night who very openly lets everyone know that he did NOT vote for President Obama. Me? I keep my votes to myself. Point is: he is still complaining rabidly about the fact that Barack Obama won the election. I think he needs to get over it already and I told him that quite plainly. My words may not have been as eloquent then but this is basically what I said:
As a human, you have a responsibility to respect a man who has forged his own path and, in doing so, allowed us to witness history in the making.
As a Christian, you have a responsibility to pray for him (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
As an American, you have a responsibility to honor him as your Commander and Chief and your President as elected by the people.
The sun is now setting on President Obama’s first full day in office. The (way over budget) party is over. Bleachers are being torn down. Porta potties (yuck) are being removed. People are going (or have gone) home. Roads are open (But, are the street lights working?). Audio and video towers (there were many) must go back from whence they came. The filth (trash) is being picked up. (Please, please, please tell me the trash is being picked up. For that matter – do they sort and recycle?) At the end of the day what do we find (other than the mess)? Is the sun still rising after all the pomp and circumstance has ended? Will this truly be a new era? Is there still hope?
I say, “Why, yes, there is!” The changes began today. Among them was a pledge for an era of openness in the U.S. government. I’d say that is a bit more than a baby step. Still, the sun has just begun its ascent. Only time will tell. But, for the first time in a long time, I find that I am looking forward to the dawn of a new day … and I’m not even wearing sunglasses.
Just in case you missed it, President Obama’s inaugural speech can be viewed or read in its entirety here. God Bless the BBC.