Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Personal Faith with a Healthy Dose of Skepticism

I continue to be inspired by Barack Obama's words, especially his one-on-one, in-depth exchanges. I just ran across an interview he did with Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani in 2004. I am generally skeptical of anyone who claims to be a person of faith, particularly those who aspire to be our political leaders. But I don't believe I've ever heard a politician give such a nuanced and understanding vision of faith than Obama does in this interview.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Understanding Nuance

I was treated to a wonderful -- if somewhat unexpected -- conversation about politics last night with an old friend. The concept of nuance repeatedly weaved its way in and out of the discussion. Ever since I first became a supporter and vocal proponent of Barack Obama, I've held two of his qualities above all others: 1) his insistence that the solution to problems lies in all of us collectively and 2) his ability to understand the nuance and complexity of our national challenges.

This morning, Nicholas Kristoff's New York Times op-ed "Obama and the War on Brains" examines the challenge of being an intellectual president throughout the history of America. Kristoff wonders if Obama's election signals a shift in American anti-intellectualism. I have my doubts, simply because Obama's victory is rooted more deeply in the GOP's complicity in and inconsistent response to the economic crisis. But I am hopeful, like Kristoff, that perhaps the American public -- at least the voting public -- is more appreciative and accepting of a leader who does not see the world in black and white, but rather in its true shades of grey.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our Task at Hand

I sit here, a day removed from the raw and overwhelming emotion of watching Barack Obama's victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park. Tears flowed freely from my eyes as he spoke, humbly accepting the mantle of president-elect. Our country's prognosis was clearly written in the seriousness of his tone. Our country's future reflected in the determination of his eyes. He spoke eloquently of our history, but it was his promise of the future that has been swimming continually in my thoughts:
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
Just today, an old college friend -- a self-described conservative -- asked me if I had played an official role in the Obama campaign. In a strict sense, I would have to answer in the negative. I did not organize, canvas, fundraise or perform any of the other activities generally considered official. Certainly, I took every opportunity to engage others in conversation about the importance of this election. But my efforts paled in comparison to the tirelessness of many that shared and fueled this campaign.

But then why did I feel like I owned part of this quest? Why did I make the transition from being politically aware to being politically active?

Simply, it is because I was invited to become part of the solution. Never before had a candidate for president stood before me an asked for more than my vote or financial contribution. Obama asked for much more -- a commitment to be a part of this movement long after the last votes are cast.

In the hours since I cast my vote, I've been subject to statements like "you realize he's not going to do everything he promised" and "nobody walks on water" by those who aim to temper my enthusiasm. There is nothing inherently wrong in these statements, but I believe they miss the point. I've never held the delusion that every campaign promise would be fulfilled or that Obama is some sort of national savior.

But just listen to his words --
I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation -- and how they resonate in contrast to the blind and unfounded arrogance of the past eight years.





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