Surely Barack Hussein Obama has one of the least likely names for a United States president. His middle name, Hussein, is the last name of the much-loathed dictator of Iraq whom American forces deposed. His last name rhymes with the still hunted Osama who was supposed to be behind the 9/11 attacks. These two names are inextricably linked to some of America's darkest moments in recent history. Yet isn't it wonderfully symbolic that the man with an unlikely name and of unlikely origin stood before us and promised to lead the way out of these dark days and into the light of a hopeful future. The man "whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant." The man who is half Kenyan, half white, 100% American. The man upon whose shoulders rest not only the hopes of a nation but the entire world.
Watching his speech this morning on the TVNZ website (slept through the live coverage, oops) I was compelled to make notes. It's one of he most quotable speeches I have heard in a very long time. It mixed the exact amount of patriotism with the right amount of progressive thinking and had wisdom and inspiration sprinkled liberally on top. I'm not American, but I'll tell you something for free - I was inspired and moved by this speech.
So much of the speech resonated for me personally. The two main quotes I noted were:
"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are the wrong side of history; but we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
"...also it is a parent's willingness to nurture a child that finally decides our fate."
These have been dark days. Not only for the USA but for other countries around the world. Wars have ripped countries, lands, villages and families asunder. Poverty has struck at the very heart of even the most wealthy nation in this world. Natural disasters have brought so many areas of the world to their knees. This is not the first time nor will it be the last that a series of bad things have happened in a certain period of history, but I firmly believe that the interpretation of these events is seen through the lens of the morale of the people.
The morales of the people of America have surely taken a severe beating over the last eight years. Has global opinions of the American people ever been so low? And to be honest, this bad rep wasn't entirely fair for most of them. The Americans the rest of us in the world were actually beating up on were Bush, Cheney and that crew. And anyone insane enough to vote for them a second time. The slump in the world's shoulders when 'four more years' was announced was clearly visible. Thank God and reason and faith that enough voters got smart this time around.
Obama is the ray of hope that was needed. And perhaps, just perhaps, America needed to hit the rock bottom of the last four years to truly appreciate the genius that I believe Obama will display in his leadership. Maybe it was the walk through the Valley of the Shadow of George. Whatever it has been, it is thankfully over. Bush left the office with an approval rating of 22%. Only one in five people actually thought he'd done a good job. Ouch. Doesn't look like he'll be on the Inspirational Speakers Circuit unless he's touting "How not to be a President." It'll be interesting to see where he winds up.
No matter. The past is gone, hustled out by the fizzing buzz of pure anticipation of today's inauguration. Their work is cut out for them but with Obama at the helm, Americans are finally able to start the task of picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and looking towards the horizon of their new future. I congratulate you, America. You've picked a star.