No matter how much progress is made during Obama's presidency, it is inevitable that it will also be a disappointment in some ways--as the Rick Warren debacle has already shown. What is already evident, though, is the optimism that the "change" movement is bringing to our political expectations. Strong election turnout was an encouraging sign, as was Obama's openness during the transition process. Remember, though, that the Republican wreckage of the past forty years cannot be cleaned overnight; generations of neglect will require decades--not months or years--of determined effort:
"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles."
(Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 4 June 1798)
The restoration of our nation will soon begin, and--like a philharmonic orchestra of 300 million people--each of us has a part to play. One hopes the promise of this transformational moment will not be lost, because it may not appear again in our lifetimes.
For purposes of comparison to Obama's speech, here are selections from two of the twentieth century's greatest speeches:
"...the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried. But their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men."
(FDR's 1933 inaugural speech)
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
(JFK's 1961 inaugural speech)