It used to be that kings and queens were considered at least part deity. The Americans did one good thing right away by establishing that the President was fully human, acknowledging the fallibility inherent in each of us.
At times the President would become a part of our national mythology. Washington and the cherry tree, Lincoln holding the country together with nothing but his beard, Teddy Roosevelt punching Spain right in the face. These stories are part of who we are as Americans, but we never make the mistake of saying (as much as we wanted to) that George Washington had descended from Zeus.
Then Nixon came along and made it okay to view the President as someone out to get you, kind of like a Boogeyman. The President was not only fallible but potentially worse than the average citizen. This is a perception that successive Presidential candidates fail to alter every four years.
I’ve championed Barack Obama since before he even announced he was running for President. I saw in him some of that mythology that has been missing from the White House since, I don’t know, FDR. I was sick of the run of Presidents who, at best, could be called place-holders, and at worst gave us two wars, the worst financial disaster in 70 years, and ignored global warming and those pesky “anti-torture” agreements.
I couldn’t say I was proud of any President who served in my lifetime* until now.
President Obama is doing exactly what I elected him to do. Hope? Change? Yes, on both counts. In March he signed wide-ranging conservation legislation called the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, adding new national parks, increasing the size of existing parks, and increasing protection of wilderness areas around the country. In May, he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. She is the first Hispanic justice and the third woman to serve on that court. Oh, and let’s not forget the nation’s first national health care package, which Obama is currently pushing through Congress.
Besides those accomplishments, Obama spends his time putting out the fires from the bad old days of his predecessor. Acknowledging that global warming is not some liberal fever dream, he’s actually putting money into programs that will help us curb our greenhouse emissions. Funding stem cell research that may one day allow us to cure some of those “incurable” diseases. Appointing people to his cabinet that don’t actively hate this country.
It is the combination of big and small acts that has made Barack Obama’s administration a success. Not yet a year into his Presidency, Obama is proving that he will be there for us like Bruce Springsteen is there for Mary.
Before I go, I want to comment on the unfortunate news that President Obama will be sending more troops to Afghanistan. I’m never for war. There have only been three wars in our country’s history that have been completely necessary.** But if it’s between leaving Afghanistan to the warlords and the triumphant return of the Taliban, or finishing what we started lo those years ago, I say we stay and try to clean up some of the mess we made.
“Cleaning up the mess we made” probably should have been Obama’s campaign motto, because that’s what he’s doing and what he will continue to do for the next seven years. In spite of this handicap, Obama has been quietly bringing about the positive change he promised, moving us forward while rectifying past errors. And if that’s not totally awesome, I don’t know what “totally awesome” means.
*Except Jimmy Carter, who was in office for three months after I was born.
**The War of 1812, The Spanish-American War, and the War on Drugs. Duh.