At last: reason for hopefulness
The spirit of JFK returns to the White House
To really understand hope, I believe one must first experience hopelessness on an ongoing basis. For me, hopelessness began in November 2000, when an obscure former Texas governor lost the popular vote but was eventually awarded the presidency of the United States. It continued in September 2001, when international terrorism suddenly made a hero out of a man whose only previous claim to fame was that he executed more men and women than any other Texas governor in history.
For eight years, I and many of my fellow Americans struggled to understand why this burden had been placed upon our country. We were not alone. Across the globe, world leaders also struggled to understand how a nation that was once respected by nearly all could support and actually re-elect George W. Bush.
As I write this, a new president has just completed his first 24 hours in office. For America, it is a new day. It is a day of hope. And, it is a day of change.
A far-away prison best known for its skill in human torture is being closed. The rotating door of lobbyist influence is being shut. He has promised an unprecedented era of openness in government and has pledged that his government will honor the Freedom of Information Act rather than trample it, as was done by his predecessor.
Finally, it is a time for hope. As I near my 67th year of life, I find my faith in government and governance renewed as I never expected it to be. The last time I felt this way, I was a young Air Force enlisted man who listened in awe as John F. Kennedy spoke of bringing a new spirit to the office of president of the United States.
At the time, I was in need of some inspiration. It was 1960, and I was stationed in Biloxi, Miss. I was a Southern California boy living in the South. My former world, for the most part, was a world of white, brown, and black that somehow coexisted, albeit not necessarily cordially.
Biloxi, however, was the Deep South. Outside the gates of our Air Force base, it was “White” and “colored” (the signs above the non-white drinking fountains never had capital letters). For nine months, I wandered back and forth between these two worlds of integration and segregation, and I never understood the underlying factors of racial hatred.
Now, I have an African-America president in the most powerful office in the world, and I have hope that he will bring all of us together—nationally and globally.
Words from a once-again-popular song echo in my head: “At last …”