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Opinion: Ode to Obama

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I had no plans of revisiting the Obama inauguration in today's column, because you and I both know that more than enough words have been spoken or written about this special event.

But I cannot escape the news that surrounds me. And for some unknown reason, I am compelled to write one final time on the emotions that blanket our nation.

There is no dispute that Inauguration Day dawns on a new era in this country. You can argue whether that era is good or bad, progressive or destructive, but there is no argument that the rules of the game have now changed.

Let's call it a spirit of cautious unity, for lack of a better expression. Those among us who had hoped for a different outcome this week will accept the change as we accept all other change.

Like it or not, the bipartisanship will all too soon evaporate, as it always does. And opinions that have clashed in the past will resurface as they always do. As much as we abhor the bickering on the national political stage, it might just be our strength. Or so we'll soon learn.

Before I penned this "Ode to Obama," I undertook another regular task in the newspapering world Tuesday morning and proofread a long list of court news from throughout our region. This sad daily court report lists all of our neighbors who have run afoul of the law and are facing their day before the judge. Court news is a newspaper staple from long before my time. I still find it interesting in some perverse way.

What struck me was the obvious notion that some among us will always refuse to adhere to the laws of the land. Sea changes in the national or state political level have no impact on those who twist the laws of society for their own personal reasons.

Government at all levels can change laws, craft new directions and promise the world. But in the end, doesn't it boil down to the individual? Aren't the woes of society dependent on one person making one choice?

National governments look at the big picture items that shape the direction of a nation. But far beneath those big choices are the millions of little choices made each day by each of us. The future of a society is often driven by those little choices -- not the big ones.

We make choices on whether to work and feed our families or to allow others to work while we benefit from their efforts. We make choices on whether to lend a helping hand or to be that outstretched arm seeking the sacrifices of others. We make a choice on whether to address wrongdoing or to accept wrongdoing as a way of life.

This new administration can advance the cause of society in amazing and positive ways. We pray they will.

Yet it is the individual -- that lonely soul who stares back at you in the mirror each morning -- who forms the fundamental building block of change. And it will take more than groundbreaking speeches and flowery rhetoric to convince some that they too must make changes in their personal lives on a daily basis.

If the new tone in this nation is shifting to responsibility, it's essential all segments of society hear that message loud and clear. It should be understood throughout the land that the message of responsibility that has taken center stage is not directed at those who toil daily, who provide for their families and who consider the needs of others as much as their own.

No, that message should be received by those who have spent generations on the sideline expecting others to accept their burdens.

That may not be the message that is being delivered. But it's the message that I heard.


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