Hope for the future: A prayer for the new president

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The challenges facing the United States are large: two wars, an economic meltdown, partisan rancor within our federal government and an ongoing concern about terrorism, just to name a few. The policy debates about how to best address these concerns will be complicated, and the recent campaign often provided more heat than light in offering solutions. But this week the nation awakened to the dawn of a historic era with the election of the first African-American president. Setting aside policy disagreements for a moment, the nation as a whole should celebrate mightily this historic landmark.

The election of Barack Obama, a self-made man who is the son of an immigrant and raised by a single mother, is the stuff that American dreams are made of. His personal story should be an inspiration to all — in every city and town across this land.

Throughout the campaign, Senator Obama held himself up to be a transformational leader, someone who could transcend petty politics. It was this spirit, more than any other, which led him to victory in the Democratic primary against Sen. Hillary Clinton. And it was this spirit that helped energize millions across this nation to vote for him on Tuesday.

Once in office, it will be a heavy challenge for President Obama to uphold his pledge for bipartisanship, but his victory speech hit the perfect chords.

"Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our politics for so long," said Obama Tuesday night in Chicago. "Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House — a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

"As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, 'We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.' And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn — I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too."

There is something affirming about America, where political foes, once the election is over, usually come together for the good of the country. John McCain hit the same theme in his concession speech.

"These are difficult times for our country," McCain spoke. "And I pledge to [president-elect Obama] tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

"I urge all Americans ... 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 and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

"Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans."

For those who did not hear president-elect Obama's speech, I encourage you to read it in full. The text will be printed in Sunday's Southeast Missourian alongside Sen. McCain's concession. Both were eloquent addresses, and each represented the best of the American ideal.

Whether President Obama can live up to his promise is uncertain. But he will come to power with advantages that no president has had since 1980, starting with a decisive electoral victory. He also brings with him a likability and articulation sorely missing from the highest office in the land. In his campaign, he was too often successful in emphasizing these traits over clear policy statements — often seeming to take both sides of an issue. As president, he will not have that luxury — and some anxiety over what he truly believes and intends is justified. But let us not question his love of country, for the weight of the mantle of our nation's leadership will soon be upon him.

We should all pray for the next president of the United States. Let God hold him safe — and give him guidance and wisdom to lead our nation. And, we can hope for the best — and do our own part for the future. That is, after all, the American way, the American responsibility.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. Email: jrust@semissourian.com.

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