A call to service in the new America

Published 12:41 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

By By Tray Smith
Barack Obama
Standing on the National Mall surrounded by over a million people - government statisticians are still unsurprisingly arguing over the exact tally - as the new president was sworn in, it was impossible not to become engulfed in the patriotic pride sweeping through the grounds in front of the Capitol and across the country, in high school auditoriums, nursing homes and family rooms.
The experience served as a glorious reminder of the greatness of our country, where thousands of citizens turned out to welcome a leader for whom they did not vote.
Barack Obama, a once unlikely candidate who found himself staring out across the largest inaugural crowd in at least a generation, took the oath of office promising not the change he campaigned on, but instead the work of “remaking” America.
The continuously touted absurdity that America needs to be remade aside, the speech was a reassuring indicator our new commander-in-chief sees his role not as a change agent but a renovator.
Obama is not as interested in introducing new and foreign concepts as he is in restoring old and enduring American values.
Of course, liberals have a unique idea of what constitutes “American values,” and President Obama is, undoubtedly, a liberal.
Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that the change we have now voted for will come more in the form of Clintonesque liberalism than Obamaesque radicalism, which was the primary concern of skeptical voters during the fall election.
After all, some liberal priorities have been ignored for too long, and it will do the nation good to see them addressed.
Now, the new administration begins the arduous task of governing a country suffering an economic slump, which Mr. Obama got elected promising to resolve.
Should he fail to fulfill that promise, President Obama cannot blame President Bush without undermining the central justification for his own election: that he can revive the economy.
Yet, given the enormity of government programs poised to be adopted in the name of fighting this recession, it appears likely President Obama will fail in many regards. “Insanity,” said Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Our nation has turned to government to alleviate economic calamities before. Government did not work then; there is no reason to expect it will work now.
No level of failure, however, can detract from the initial majesty of this 56th inauguration. If Americans ever needed a shot of confidence in their selves and their country, it was now. Taking the oath of office on Tuesday, Obama not only gave them that confidence, but he restored America’s image in the international community after years of increasing global tension.
He also sent a signal to every young man, woman, and child in the United States that not only is anything possible, but hard-work, self-restraint, and selfless sacrifice are virtues that pay off with handsome rewards.
Most importantly, Obama called a new generation of Americans into service. No recent period in our history has been as challenging as this last decade, and yet no generation has been as apathetic as this one.
The campaign Barack Obama led inspired millions to put up yard signs, knock on doors and make phone calls.
If the country Obama leads can now inspire those same millions, and more, to clean up parks, tutor peers, and feed the hungry, he may truly be a transformational president.
Indeed, the inaugural call to service offers the greatest possible context for this presidency, and a great potential benefit to a public desperately in need of being reminded that while our economic circumstances may not be determined collectively, the character of our country is.
It was nice being on that mall Tuesday, where everyone agreed that America is the greatest country in the world, and resolved to keep it that way. It was nice to be in a situation where even the Democrats were patriotic.
That’s the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a former page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at tsmith_90@hotmail.com. His column appears weekly.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox