As I followed the presidential campaign over the last two years I was amazed at how vigorously some of the candidates fought for the opportunity to become the next President of the United States. Considering the fact that our country is involved in two wars, facing serious economic collapse, and is constantly looked at to take the lead in every skirmish and disagreement around the world – why anyone would want to be president is a mystery to me. The candidates spend millions of dollars for a job that only pays about $300,000 a year and no matter what the circumstances, if something goes wrong – it’s all YOUR fault!
I’m sure flying around in Air Force One is a pretty cool perk. Riding around in the Presidential Limousine, that the Secret Service refers to as “The Beast”, certainly beats having to navigate through Washington, D.C. traffic on your way to work. And living in a big, columned mansion without having to worry about the mortgage must be pretty sweet as well. But the challenges a president has to face, even when things are going relatively well, is so daunting that I have to have the utmost respect for anyone with enough guts to take on the task. Yes, even G. W. Bush deserves kudos for taking on the most public of public service jobs.
On January 20, 2009 Barack Obama was sworn in as as President of the United States. On January 21, 2009 everyone wanted to know how the President was going to resolve the crisis in Gaza, whether members of the former administration would be brought up on charges, the oath of office was re-administered for the right wing nut-jobs who questioned whether President Obama was actually the president, and folks were wondering why their stimulus check hadn’t been mailed yet, among other issues. And all that was before lunch!! The First Family probably hasn’t figured out where all the restrooms are in the White House yet.
All the slogans about “Change”, and “Hope”, and “We Are One” will last about as long as it takes for me to finish this article. Slowly but surely the honeymoon phase will end, and the expectations will begin. President Obama represents hope for a new day, not just here in the United States but around the world. What a heavy burden to place on the shoulders of one man. But I believe that if anyone can carry such a burden with the grace, wisdom, and understanding necessary for the task, President Obama can.
It is hard not to talk about the President’s qualities without sounding like some sort of adoring fanatic. Even normally stoic news reporters were waxing poetic about the man during his inauguration, one of whom even commented that even the birds flying above seemed be giving reverence to the historic aspect of the event. But we must remember that the POTUS is a just a human being, after all. And he willl need the help of his well-chosen advisors, as well as patience from his long-suffering constituents in order to be successful.
One of the things that will serve the President well during his term in office is his willingness to listen to opposing points of view. In spite of the sea of people that waited for hours and stood in the cold just to be a part of history, one must remember that 49% of the population did NOT vote for him. Dismissing their concerns would be a return to the old way of thinking. Obviously the President will never be able to please everyone, but his willingness to honestly listen to their concerns and try to reach a consensus will allow him to remain open-minded to helpful solutions that come from the other side of the aisle.
Another quality of the President is his steady demeanor. While the country faces its most challenging problems our Commander-in-Chief always maintains a calm and steady presence, one that both acknowledges the seriousness of the issues at hand but also reassures the public that a resolution is possible. If the President seems to have doubts then everyone else, even his supporters, will also have doubts. That will make pushing through important legislation much more difficult at a time when the country needs to see things getting done. I believe part of the reason why so many people have allowed themselves to once again believe in the “audacity of hope” is that the President himself believes in it. And even though he faced serious challenges on his way to the presidency he never seemed to panic or be swayed from his convictions. Sometimes it’s not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.
President Obama does not have the luxury of being a mediocre leader. The nation’s ability to succeed in the face of its many obstacles depends on him being a great leader. And unlike the Rush Limbaughs of the world I hope (and believe) that he will be successful. I don’t believe it is an exaggeration to say that as President Obama’s presidency goes, so goes the strength of our country. I will pray for and support him for as long as he is President, and I know there will be times when that will require a LOT of prayer and a LOT of support.
Good luck, Mr. President. You’re going to need it.