A Sense of Sober Optimism


(On my porch this morning)

What can I say about last night—and the triumph of Barack Obama?  It was historic, it was inspiring, it was transcendent, and it was moving beyond words.  So I’ll keep my own inadequate words brief.

It was impossible to watch history being made last night and not be moved and swept up in the jubilation and sense of hope and joy.  This morning, my jubilation is somewhat tempered by thoughts of just how far our country has to travel in the journey back to wholeness and just how rocky and steep the road will be.  I guess you could say I feel a sense of sober optimism.
One thing is for sure—no matter who you voted for, in order for real healing to take place, the healing must begin in our own hearts and minds.  One man alone cannot bring about change—it must begin in us.  We must be the change we want to see. 

John McCain said it well in his concession speech last night:

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences… to leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.”

And, of course, as always, President-Elect Barack Obama inspired us with his words:

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers — in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long….. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth — that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Indeed.  And it is my prayer that God not only may bless us, but that He may heal our souls and spirits and the soul and spirit of our nation.  And it is my most earnest prayer that God may keep Barack Obama and his family safe in the palm of His hand.


12 Responses to “A Sense of Sober Optimism”

  1. Margie Miller Says:

    I agree with you. I am concerned about his safety and that of his family. I understand they have doubled his security. That’s is a good idea. There are a lot of nuts out there.

  2. Clara Melvin Says:

    You spoke my thoughts exactly!

  3. Pat Says:

    Well said Beth. I loved both speech excerpts you chose.

  4. June Says:

    Your words never seem inadequate to me! I said to a friend today: we have the same problems today that we had yesterday. The difference is that today I don’t think they’re insurmountable. Your prayer is a good one…I’ll be offering it up too.

  5. eemilla Says:

    After being at work today with my two ultra conservative colleagues, the elation and joy of last night has calmed into resolve and realism. Our country is a complete wreck, and it will be quite easy for people like those that I work with to stop any sort of change. Although Senator McCain implored his supporters to pull together with the President-elect Obama, the party doesn’t really support Senator McCain; like Senator McCain’s mother predicted the Republican party held their nose and voted for him. I also agree with June’s comment, that the problems seem a bit less daunting now that we have a thoughtful leader waiting to take office. I just hope our lame duck doesn’t do anything terrible or stupid or rash until January.

  6. wesleyjeanne Says:

    I know I should be more like you, more sober, more cautious. But I must say I am naively, unabashedly hopeful. I know he is but one man. I know he can’t do it all himself, but nonetheless…I have great faith that he will at the very very least be a thoughful leader, an intelligent individual, who care about this country more than his own advancement, more than payback gains for good ol’ boy buddies.

    What I pray for him is that he keeps to his own words, (in The Audacity of Hope) that he “can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments.”

    As you said Beth, my dear friend, God be with you Mr. Obama.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Everyone before me has said it better than I am able to, so all I have to offer is a lot of hope that people can be civil and get along. We need a lot of mediators and folks who realize that there are more than two sides to an issue. Those on the left and the right need to open their hearts and listen, really listen, to each other. If not, then we, as a nation and as a people, will remain mired in the hatred and divisiveness that has consumed our country for the last 50 years. As you said, Beth, change must begin in us. A writer by the name of Karl Hess said it well, years ago, when he wrote, “Revolution, like charity, starts at home.”

  8. Benjamin Says:

    What Obama/McCain/you said is important. Something I believe myself is our insistence on depending on a leader to do and/or organize all the work poisons our progress as a nation. We like to have them support our happiness and well-being, then point fingers whenever something goes wrong. Some issues (i.e. foreign relations, free trade, etc.) are beyond our reach. But we can be as extreme as we want to as INDIVIDUALS. If I want to drive a pedal car everywhere I go, I help the environment in a small way. If I want to learn farming/cooking, carpentry or any number of trades I can control every step of the process and make sure that nothing is contrary to the way it should be. When it steps to the standard hierarchy situation in the workplace and in politics today, it becomes a thing of “making the best” of whatever is handed down to you. Sorry for being long-winded; guess it’s just something I feel strongly about.

  9. Judy Says:

    I am so hopeful but also scared for his family’s safety. I thought McCain’s speech was the best one he gave during the entire process and I was so glad he asked those people to stop booing Obama during his speech. I was for Obama from the beginning but after he was elected and I saw how happy and hopeful my children all were it just made me realize how much the young people in this country want change. He received almost 100 % of the young people’s vote. This should tell us something. It was a great historic event and I am so glad I was able to be alive to witness it.

  10. CountryDew Says:

    It is time for lots of reflection by folks on both sides of the fence. There is a middle ground and it’s time we worked to find it. I can feel the hatred and anger spewing over every time I go into a public area; it makes it difficult to want to leave the house sometimes. I am with you in praying for an end to the divisions and for cohesiveness. It’s time to stop the name-calling and act like adults. I hope that is what happens.

  11. colleen Says:

    Everyone ran out and got their newspapers, which shows that print media that you can hold in your hands still has an important place in society. I had not seen the paper myself, so I’m glad you posted it.

    I’m starting to thaw from the numbness I allowed to happen in order to endure the previous 8 years.

  12. Shannon Says:

    I’m blogging about it so much lately it is nuts. I’m crying on and off here and there through these days as I just can’t help myself. I can honestly say I haven’t been proud of my country in recent years, and I’m so hopeful that we can change our tide. I’m so hopeful that he addressed the need for us to restore a service ethic in our nation, and that he acknowledged our environment right off the bat.

    I really understand now what people say about Kennedy moment. Shannon

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