Warning: this post has nothing to do with mountain biking. Sorry - sometimes I realize that there is a world beyond two wheels and dirt. If you want something mountain bike related, check out our YouTube channel, chock full of cool mountain bike vids from around the world.
Wow, what a day Jan. 20, 2009 turned out to be. Yesterday I sat with about 80 other people at the Centre for Social Innovation and watched Barack Obama get sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, on Martin Luther King day. The significance and timing of his inauguration was not lost on any of the people there, nor on the nearly 2,000,000 people who went to Washington to watch it live. The fact that it happened just a little more than a generation later after King's "I have a dream" speech is simply stunning. It proves once again that in America, anything is possible.
And while anything is possible in the grand ole U.S. of A., what is certain is that America is hurting right now. From a deep economic meltdown, to two seemingly interminable foreign wars, to a worldwide ecological crisis of which America is playing a major role, there is no shortage of doom and gloom purveyed on the screens and news pages of our neighbours to the south. America is hurting.
Which is why Barack's inauguration speech was such an amazing piece of writing and oratory. To offer hope in the midst of despair is no easy feat, yet Obama and his 27-year-old speechwriter Jon Favreau managed to do just that. Brilliantly penned by Favreau and flawlessly delivered by Obama, the speech was made all that more remarkable by the contrast it offered to 8 years of the Bush administration. Instead of fear and division, the speech inspired hope and reconciliation.
As I listened, I found myself getting swept up deeper into the Obama myth. There is something about him that inspires us all and touches a deeper human chord. Everything that I wanted to hear from a U.S. president - that was so sadly lacking during the past 8 years - was there: addressing climate change, promoting peace and understanding worldwide, adopting a more humble stance in the world, sowing sustainable economies, addressing domestic and international poverty... everything I've ever wanted to hear from a political leader and a wonderful image of what a just and peaceful world would look like, and America's role in it.
Whether Obama and his administration can pull off what he has promised remains to be seen. Yet something more important than just one man and one government has emerged from this election: the notion of responsibility. This was a topic Obama touched on several times in his speech - the notion that it is not just America's president and its government that has a responsibility, but its citizens as well. Echoing JKF's "ask not what your country can do for you..." speech, Obama's oratory reminded America's citizens that democracy is not a top-down institution, but one that springs forth from the roots, and that democracy must be practiced every day by its citizens, in the practice of community involvement, engagment in the political process and more importantly, in looking out for one another.
I am looking forward to seeing the changes that occur in America and in the world over the next decade, and I know Obama will play a big part. Hope springs eternal.
What did you think about the speech? Send me your comments!
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