Sixty years ago Hollywood sent Jimmy Stewart to Washington in the character of Senator Jefferson Smith. Armed with not much more than a love of his country, unabashed optimism, and the desire to serve, the wet-behind-the-ears junior senator stood up to the money, greed and cronyism and taught a lasting lesson of principle above politics.
Near the end of his famous one-man filibuster, Senator Smith croaked:
“Just get up off the ground, that's all I ask. Get up there with that lady that's up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won't just see scenery; you'll see the whole parade of what Man's carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so's he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that's what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we'd better get those boys' camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it's not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again!”
(Watch this video clip on my Facebook page, by clicking on this link: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1345211756 )
In a few days, the former junior Senator from Illinois, following a meteoric rise based on a declaration of hope and optimism and change, will stand beneath that same Lady Liberty and swear an oath on Lincoln’s Bible to become the first African American President of the United States of America. President Obama goes to Washington at a time when the graft and greed of Wall Street have plunged our nation into a downward economic spiral that threatens our very future.
I did not vote for Senator Barack Obama. I supported the man, Senator John McCain, who I believed had, by a lifetime of public service, and tested in the fires of war, isolation and torture, proven himself best suited to lead us through the tough times ahead. But I will support President Barack Obama. I support him with my prayers and my own public service. My Pollyanna optimism and my ideas .While I disagree with many of his social and economic policies and worry about the lasting impact of his judicial appointments, I will give him the chance that so many refused his predecessor.
I am going to the inauguration based on my own audacious hope that Barack Obama truly believes what he wrote a few years ago as he prepared to run for the presidency, and that he will govern this blessed nation accordingly. In writing of the “fundamental decency of the American people,” he sounded very Jefferson Smith-like in declaring:
“[A]t the core of the American experience are a set of ideals that continue to stir our collective conscience; a common set of values that bind us together despite our differences; a running thread of hope that makes our improbable experiment in democracy work. These values and ideals find expression not just in the marble slabs of monuments or in the recitation of history books. They remain alive in the hearts and minds of most Americans – and can inspire us to pride, duty and sacrifice.” - Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on reclaiming the American Dream.
Pessimists and pundits will claim that his is a lost cause, but juar as Jimmy/Jefferson taught his seniors that lost causes were “the only causes worth fighting for,” as long as they were based on “just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor…'” Mr. Obama taught in The Audacity of Hope, that what we are facing is a “breakdown in culture that will not be cured by money alone, and that our values and spiritual life matter at least as much as our GDP.”
Good Luck and God Speed Mr. President!