The truth really shall set us freeWritten by Steve Hartman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Jan. 20, when Barack Obama gets sworn in, it will be a milestone in incredible story about the time our nation elected its first African-American president. Not only did we elect Barack Obama, we’ve never come so close to having a woman in our highest office, or our second-highest office, and it is just a matter of time before that barrier, too, will fall by the wayside. For the first time, that lesson our grade school teachers gave us about the virtue of democracy is actually true.
In America, anyone can grow up to be President.
As much as I am proud that we have come far enough to elect someone other than a white male to lead our country, the story of how it happened is almost over. It really couldn’t have been written any better, but the improbable rise of Barack Obama that started for most of us four years ago with his speech at the Democratic National Convention is about to reach its pinnacle. The end of that story marks the beginning of another one, to be sure, and it’s a good time to take stock of our expectations.
Inauguration tickets are virtually impossible to get. Despite the extremely long walk to get to the site, the inevitably long wait for the event to occur, the bone-chilling January temperature, and the miniscule chance of getting close enough to actually see anything, more people than ever want to watch an inauguration. That is just one indication of the importance of the moment. That incredible sound we will hear on Jan. 20 will be the one of the greatest barricades in history crashing down around while we watch. That will end the story of how it happened, and the next day begins the story of the Obama presidency. Given that we are currently fighting two wars in the middle of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, it is difficult to gauge expectations for Obama the president, but I know what I want from him.
During his acceptance speech in Grant Park on election night, Obama said, “I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.” That’s all I really want from my president. If he accomplishes that, in my view, everything else will be secondary.
Obviously we won’t all be pleased with what Obama does in office. It would be silly to think otherwise. Given the culture of politics over the last eight years, however, hearing the truth from the White House will be a refreshing change of pace that should satisfy everyone in a way we haven’t experienced in a while. Even those who still support the Bush/Cheney machine (rumor has it that there are still a few of you out there), if they pay attention at all, have to admit that this administration has become well practiced at telling us less than the truth. Perhaps that’s just what we’ve come to expect from Washington, that we just won’t hear the whole truth. It’s time for that to change, and we may have elected the man to change it.
If nothing else changes over the next four (or eight) years, and if no progress is made on national or world affairs, I hope President Obama sticks to that one promise. I think we all would feel less pressure about the issues facing our nation of our president would simply tell us the truth. Politicians spin when statesmen tell the truth. For the first time in my political memory, with the possible exception of Bush the senior, I feel like we’ve elected a statesman to lead us. Obama also said that he would listen to people, even those who disagree with him. That may simply be too much to expect. George W. Bush has raised ignoring opposing viewpoints to an art form in a way no one else has.
It is not melodramatic to say that we are at the dawn of a new era in the American experience. Obama’s administration has a chance to set some new ground rules, and raise the standard of political discourse in this country above the contentious polarity that has been the rule since Ronald Reagan and reached its apex in the Bush White House. Obama has promised to tell us the truth. We all should hold him to that promise.
The truth, it has been said, will set us free.
Steve Hartman is an attorney in the Toledo firm of Kerger & Hartman.