Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Hope, Not Fear
I went to the Mattatuck Museum for their inauguration festivities--the photograph was taken early, before it started and before about two-thirds of the attendees arrived. It was an incredibly powerful and inspirational event. There were many local representatives who spoke, some scheduled, some impromptu, and of course everyone in the audience was speaking amongst themselves. I was struck by how much joy, pride, optimism, awe and excitement were being shared by everyone present.
This is the first time in my life (close to four decades) that I have ever witnessed unchecked faith in the Presidency. I am accustomed to the average person feeling very cynical about the President (whichever one it might be) and politicians in general. I am also accustomed to most people in my generation being apathetic about politics. The excitement over Obama has been endlessly compared to that over JFK, but I think it's more accurate to say that there hasn't been this much excitement over a President since Nixon disgraced the office and disillusioned the country. Pre-Nixon, national fervor over a new President was not at all unusual.
We've spent eight years listening to Bush tell us to be fearful. Even in his farewell speech last week, he stated "the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack." Be afraid. Live in terror. Bad things are going to happen.
Today, listening to Obama tell us that we have "chosen hope over fear" was refreshing, reinvigorating. If he can continue to inspire young people to be involved, to make a difference, to strive for a brighter future, he will have done a great thing.
The audience at the Mattatuck Museum included young children who will no doubt embrace the slogan "Yes, we can" and see their President as a role model of what can be achieved. This is something all of Waterbury should take to heart. I've met so many people here who have given up hope. Who shrug their shoulders and say that life in Waterbury will never get better, there's no point trying to improve things, might as well settle for the bottom of the barrel. It's a self-defeating attitude.
Our new President has inspired enthusiasm and optimism at a time when the nation has been increasingly terrified about the economic, environmental and international future. I hope he continues to do so.
To everyone who has ever said or thought that Waterbury will never again flourish, never again enjoy prosperity, never again be admired, I say: Can we make Waterbury better? Yes, we can!