Wednesday, January 21, 2009

High Apple-Pie in the Sky Hopes

Four and a half-ish years ago - July 27, 2004 - I made Amanda and James sit down with me to watch television. They're kind of wary when I tell them they're going to do something with me, cause they never know what might be on the horizon. But I told them they were going to watch a political speech, and when it was done, I'd tell them why.

So we listened together to the keynote address of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The speech came to be known as "The Audacity of Hope." It ended with these words: "Hope -- Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead. "

The speaker was a young man who, four months later, would be elected to his first term in the US Senate from Illinois.

His name? You know who it was. It was Barack Obama.

I told the kids when he was finished that I wanted them to watch that speech because I believed that this man, sometime in my lifetime, would be President of the United States. I wanted them to know his name early, so that they could be on the lookout for him in the years to come. Never dreamed that only four years and six months later, they would not only be able to say that the first vote they cast in any election would be for him, but also that they would be able to watch his inauguration as our 44th President. But here we are.

And in his inauguration speech, this is what he said:

"We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

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.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

So now, at this point in our history, what have we learned? That it is no hope.

I choose - we choose - hope over fear.

God bless you and keep you safe, Mr. President. And God bless the United States of America.