Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009 — the first African-American elected to the position. Many locals will make the trip to Washington, D.C., to watch the historic event. Others will watch from here in Kansas.
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The weather forecast for Washington, D.C., today was “partly cloudy;” the icon displayed by the Weather Channel was of the sun peeking from behind some clouds.
That seems like a fitting symbol for the mood of the nation as Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States: The future still is cloudy but a ray of optimism may be shining through.
Huge crowds are expected in the nation’s capital today to celebrate the event. If Sunday’s events at the Lincoln Memorial are any indication, the numbers may stretch the capital’s coping ability. Organizers have done everything they can to prepare, but providing transportation and ensuring the safety of so many people is a mighty job. It is the nation’s fervent hope that today’s activities will go off smoothly and safely for everyone involved, especially the new president.
Hundreds of thousands of people are swarming to Washington because they recognize the historic nature of this event. The inauguration of the first African-American to serve as the U.S. president is a symbol of hope and progress for many Americans. It may not be the end of racial differences in this country, but it may be the beginning of a process that ends some of the divisions that have hindered American progress.
The landmark nature of his presidency puts high expectations and tremendous pressure on Obama. The many critical issues facing the nation add to that pressure. During his presidential campaign, Obama showed an ability to decipher difficult issues, take good advice and keep his focus on what really mattered. Somewhat alarming, however, is that he dealt more in generalities than specifics concerning how he intended to meet and solve these challenging issues.
Intelligence and discipline surely are desirable qualities in an American president. No one, except perhaps previous U.S. presidents, fully understands the task facing our next president. There is no doubt that Obama’s knowledge, candor and idealism will be tested many times in the months and years to come. He will make mistakes; he will face criticism.
Some Americans may find his hope and optimism to be naive or even foolish, but it is grounded in the ideals on which this nation is founded. Even in difficult times, the unique principles that govern America remain a beacon of hope for much of the world.
Throughout his campaign and since the election, Obama has emphasized the importance of “we.” “We the people” have chosen a new president and we now wish him godspeed as he takes the helm of our precious Union.