As of noon today, we have a new president.
I'm reminded of a conversation that I had with a prospective student almost a year and a half ago, right after I first started, while I was giving him a tour around campus while he stopped by to meet us here at the graduate school. This was right as the campaigning was just getting underway. John McCain was having difficulties, Hillary Clinton was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else on the Democrats side and Barack Obama was still a fairly new name. At that point, I was just getting interested in what was starting to happen. I knew very little about presidential politics, and looking back, I've realized just how much I've learned about how the country is run, and from that, about how my own political beliefs relate to the various parties and sides.
The United States has achieved something remarkable this year. Not electing a man of bi-racial decent, but by electing someone who is dedicated to the country, who is willing to listen and consider alternatives, and one who has demonstrated intelligence, something that we don't seem to have seen a lot of in the recent past. That all being said, we have elected a politician to office, and over the next four years, we will see successes and failures from him and his staff. No President is perfect, he will need to make changes and compromises to how things are done. Despite his popularity with the American people, something that needs to be done is to hold him to the highest level.
I have been encouraged by President Obama's habit of reaching out to his opposition, and I hope that it will continue. I firmly believe in considering all options, to go with the best route, even if it might cause problems in the short term. It is this responsibility that I saw alluded to in his speech earlier today, just after he was sworn into office. (I was a little disturbed by Chief Justice Robert's mangling of the oath - I hope that it was a mistake, and not deliberate.)
President Obama's speech leaves me with confidence where I had previously really had none. I was never a huge fan of President George W. Bush, but I have never shared the utter hatred that a number of fellow Vermonters and members of the more leftist side of the political spectrum. I disagree with his policies, and recognize that he was placed in an incredibly difficult time of our history, and I suspect that the years will eventually be kind to him, once the historians have picked apart the eight years. Looking forwards, I have to wonder what the world will look like four or eight years from now.
I have confidence that we will see a competent and forward thinking government for that time, and I believe that the US will once again regain the trust that we once enjoyed with the world. The past eight years have been difficult ones for us, and the next several will undoubtedly be so as well. I am thrilled to see the Mall filled with cheers, rather than protesters, and seeing a new administration start to such enthusiasm and interest in the system made it all worth it.
I hope that this presidency will inspire the same interest and action that defined the campaign throughout the next four years. I personally would like to have more conversations like I did earlier.