Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reflections on this Inauguration day

A year and a day ago, on Martin Luther King day, I posted a rather long piece describing my growing senses of frustration and urgency in dealing squarely with the pervasive issues of apathy, civil dependence, conspicuous consumption, and self-imposed limitations. And while much of my view remains unchanged, I find myself today revisiting the same concepts and ideas, now with a renewed sense of optimism. Now I'm not one who is given to flights of idealism; in fact I pride myself on being an intentional realist. But as I sit here in DC, relishing the moment when I witnessed the inauguration of President Obama, I am convicted by the idea that we can rise above our petty differences, overcome our dysfunctions, and work together to create the nation we've always aspired to become. 

In the article I talked about the "Mandela moment". I coined that term originally to describe the moment when Mandela was released from prison and his return to National prominence lifted the hearts and spirits of South African people and people around the world. It was a profound and beautiful moment; one when those who had been downtrodden and defeated were able to dream and envision a better future for themselves and their children. But it was also a moment fraught with risk. In that moment, Mandela the idea had become larger than Mandela the man.

In the article I expressed my concern for South Africa and their Mandela moment with these words:

However the unfortunate reality of things is that 30 years from now, though there will certainly be progress, South Africa will still be faced with savage inequalities; there will still be poverty issues, and some will likely still live in shantytowns. But addressing those issues 30 years hence will become increasingly complicated and difficult because the problems themselves will be greatly intensified by the weight of fallen expectations.

I believe that our nation experienced it's first Mandela moment with the victories of the Civil Rights movement and I detailed what I believe to have been its consequences in that earlier post. But now with the election of President Obama, I believe we are experiencing a second Mandela moment.  A moment when we've suspended our disbelief and we are willing to believe and invest fully in the coming of a new day.

But we must be cautious... We must be cautious that we don't raise our level of expectations so high that they become unrealistic. We can not allow ourselves to believe that President Obama can somehow solve all of society's ills. We must be realistic about what a President can accomplish. For if we are to escape the weight of fallen expectations, if we are to avoid the unintended consequences of a dream deferred, then we as Americans will all have to pitch in and work towards the fulfillment of our newly formed dreams.

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Jung/Myers Briggs

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
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