I Have Hope January 20, 2009

I Have Hope

obama-hopeMike Clawson here. This won’t have much to do with atheism or religion, but Hemant asked us to post our thoughts on the inauguration. Here’s what I posted on my blog and decided to cross-post here:

I don’t want to be naive about Obama and think that just because he’s President suddenly everything will get better. Nor am I a political partisan to be overjoyed simply that we have a Democrat in the White House now. Not to mention that though there is far more that I agree with Obama on than I did Bush, I still don’t agree with all of his positions or think he goes far enough in many areas (health care reform for instance). And of course my own Christian faith reminds me not to put too much hope in human leaders lest the State itself become an idol and object of devotion.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel somewhat hopeful today. It’s not just the inauguration of the first black President, though that alone is enough to make one hopeful about the progress made in race relations since Dr. King spoke of his great prophetic dream over 45 years ago. I am also hopeful because I honestly think Barack Obama will be a very good President. Nearly everything I’ve seen and read from him, I’ve been impressed by (and as a former Chicagoan, I’ve been following him quite a bit longer than most people from other parts of the country). Let me list just a few of the things that make me hopeful about him:

1) He’s intelligent. By all accounts, he’s the kind of guy who pays attention to details and really knows his stuff. In fact, he’s a bit of a policy wonk from what I hear, which is a great thing in my book, since I want a President who goes beyond the speeches and rhetoric to pay attention to the specifics of what he is enacting.

2) So far he really has been a uniter, not a divider. That was his track record as a State legislator in Springfield, IL, and he has shown that same tendency in recent weeks as he’s assembled his “team of rivals” for his cabinet, choosing people who don’t always agree with him, but will give him more honest and diverse viewpoints to consider. He’s also, on several recent occasions, expressed his openness to good ideas (especially in regards to fixing our economic crisis) no matter which side of the aisle they come from. I hope he keeps that up. And, besides his own actions, current polls show that he has an incoming approval rating of around 75%. Obviously the nation as a whole has largely come together behind this new president as well.

3) He really can, almost single-handedly, repair America’s standing in the global community. It’s no secret that Obama is practically a rockstar in many foreign countries. His name, his race, his personal story, not to mention his policies and positions, all speak to what is possible in this nation, and is inspirational to millions around the world. I hope this personal charisma will be combined with the new policies of openness and respect toward the rest of the world (no more of this unilateralism crap) to bring a new era of international cooperation.

4) Speaking of his personal story, I personally am given hope by the complexity of his background. Son of Kenyan and a white American, African-American in complexion (and therefore in the eyes of society as well) and yet raised by white relatives (and therefore more able than most to understand both perspectives), raised for a time in a foreign culture (and thus, once again, able to see the world through multiple different lenses), having given up a lucrative legal career to be a community organizer and use his skills to help those less fortunate… all of these experiences and more indicate to me that he is amply prepared to be exactly the kind of leader we need right now – someone able to weigh multiple viewpoints and competing truths, and choose a course based on what is good for all, not just for his own party, or even just his own nation. (BTW, for a great, and closer look at Obama’s story, check out the new book by my friends Bob and Ariele, Barack Obama: An American Story.)

5) Obama’s election campaign was one of the best I’ve ever seen. He raised his money (mountains of it) not from the usual cabal of special interest groups and lobbyists, but from millions and millions of ordinary Americans. He avoided the dirty politics and smear tactics that have become almost standard these days, even when his opponent was sinking to that level. By all accounts he listened to his campaign staff with respect, and yet was not controlled by them, sometimes sticking by his own convictions despite what might have seen most politically expedient (for example, his choice to respond to the Rev. Wright controversey by giving a substantive speech on race relations – written by himself, not a speechwriter – rather than just sweeping it under the rug as many pundits and advisors thought he should do). And through it all, he responded to every attack and every crisis with his usual implacable calm, cool-headedness. Let’s hope he carries all these traits with him into running the country as well.

6) Not to mention that his wife is just really cool. Just as smart as he is and a lot funnier, though also as down-to-earth as you’d expect from a Midwestern mom from a working-class background, Michelle Obama will make a great First Lady.

And all this has mainly to do with who he is or what he’s done in past. I won’t even get into the things I’m hopeful about regarding his policies and campaign promises. All I want to say is that I think he is definitely the right person for this job right now. He is what America and the world needs at this moment, and while I know he will never be able to live up to all of our hopes, I don’t think it is illegitimate to still be hopeful.

I also know that if Obama is going to fulfill any of these hopes it will have to be because we help him. As Jim Wallis often says (and as Obama has ripped off from him) “we are the ones we have been waiting for”. Now that Obama is in office, it’s time for all of us to get to work to fix the problems confronting us, and to make this world a better place, not just for Americans, but for the “least of these” all over the world. And that’s one more thing I like about Obama – he’s constantly reminding us of that fact. Over and over again in his campaign he referenced the fact that none of this was about him alone – it’s about all of us pulling together and working together to realize our hopes. And I do have hope that that is possible.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gabriel

    It is finally over. Bush is now the former president. Finally.

  • quote: “…and non-believers”


  • Gabriel

    “reutrn science to its rightful place”

    suck on that faithbased decision making.

  • Gabriel

    I counted 4 gods, what did you guys get? Not to bad.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    His comment on science and his mention of non-believers — those were so nice to hear.

  • quite nice, indeed.

  • Noodleguy

    “Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”

  • Scott LIchtenstein

    my heart skipped a beat when I heard the shout out to the nonbelievers.

    made it worth sitting through Rick Warren and the ensuing religious nonsense.

  • Tony Boling

    Don’t forget “worn out dogmas”.

  • nw

    Great post.
    Great lines from Obama. I also liked the poem. “Praise song” and “what if the mightiest word were love?”

  • Yes! It renews my hope and faith in the possibilities of this nation. We watched in the public library, and for once, it was as quiet as the library stereotype… except for the part where my hands went up in triumph at the words, “non-believers” and “return science to its rightful place”.

  • I am thankful that we live in a nation that support a President despite our disagreements with his policies. I am thankful to be a part of a Church who has shown great maturity in respecting and leading a charge to commit to pray for our new President despite the vast differences of our worldviews. I do see hope for our future. Not because of who has been elected, but because my hope is in Him who true hope is found.

  • Kate

    I too was SUPER excited to hear “nonbelievers”…as soon as he started listing off religions I held my breath and hoped he would say it. And then he did!

    And when he said “return science to its rightful place” I was ALSO filled with glee. 🙂


  • Vincent

    “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works . . . . Where the answer is no, programs will end.”
    anyone else think of abstinence only programs when he said this?

    That was an incredible speech and possibly the most anti-Bush speech I’ve ever heard.

    (oh, and my wife and I both raised our arms and shouted in joy at the science line)

  • Dave

    That pause after the religions, it felt like 5 seconds before he said and non believers…I was standing in a huge crowd at my school between classes, and after that I part I felt like I was tearing up… He really emphasized it too when he said it! haha

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you Mike for this perspective. For skeptical folks like me, to experience hope I need factual evidence. Your list is a good overview of the things we can observe to build an argument for hope. While like you, I will keep my eyes open and avoid getting drunk on optimism, I must say it feels good after languishing for so long in anger, resentment and anxiety.

  • It’s no secret that Obama is practically a rockstar in many foreign countries.

    This cartoonist agrees.

  • Spurs Fan

    I do see hope for our future. Not because of who has been elected, but because my hope is in Him who true hope is found.

    I agree. Joe the Plumber is our only hope.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Not to mention that his wife is just really cool. Just as smart as he is and a lot funnier, though also as down-to-earth as you’d expect from a Midwestern mom from a working-class background, Michelle Obama will make a great First Lady.

    That’s really an insult to Obama. He’s clearly an extremely intelligent man. Michelle, on the other hand, has been the benficiary of affirmative action admissions throughout her career. Her counselors implored her not to apply to Princeton as she was clearly unqualified. Her atrocious thesis (by Princeton standards) is evidence of that.

    Plus, her inexorable desire to make race such a central issue (i.e. she denied an HV testing program at U of Chi hopstial b/c it targeted black females. What she didn’t know? Black females have an incredibly high incidence of the disease. Also her thesis was basically a diatribe against supposedly racist Princeton.) is unnerving.

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