There is no question that Barack Obama is a charismatic and inspirational speaker and leader. Like many others, I am hopeful about the change he has promised to bring to this country. As many are saying, he has a lot to live up to, and no doubt he will disappoint some – perhaps many – people. He is, after all, only human, and he will inherit some huge problems with this country.
However, I maintain my hope because I am inspired not only by Obama’s own words, but by the movement that has arisen in his wake. Tuesday night was historic not only because he was the first African-American man elected president of the United States, but because of the unprecedented celebration and joy at his election. Unprecedented in my lifetime, at least. I have never before witnessed people taking to the streets in celebration in the numbers that they did Tuesday night, and that itself is incredibly inspiring to me. To see people from many different communities, of different colors, genders, abilities, and ages, out on the streets together crying and hugging and cheering. To see them out there together sharing happiness and excitement with each other. I contrast these images with ones that have been more common in my lifetime: thousands of people on the street rioting, burning things and hurting each other. The celebration of Tuesday night around the world gives me hope that people can stop the violence of the past and recognize that they live together in a global community.
Obama is indeed a powerful leader to inspire this kind of excitement in people. My hope is that people will maintain their optimism about the future and their sense of connectedness with others, because that is how change will really happen. Yes, Obama will be in a position of power, where he can enact certain changes, but ultimately the change has to come from the people who recognize that we are all one community and who, most importantly, believe that change is possible.