Wednesday, January 21, 2009
He came from Illinois, the land of Lincoln, to the presidency with confidence, a plurality of the popular vote and a popularity that carried with it glitz and a dab of Hollywood.
In the process, his ascension to the presidency marked an historic record.
The country had fallen on hard times financially with a tarnished reputation abroad.
While recognizing the country's situation, he persisted in hope for the future.
In that Jan. 20 inaugural address he called for sacrifice to bring the country back together. At the same time he recognized those serving, and who served, far afield in defense of the nation.
That was the inauguration of Barack Obama, our 44th president.
Those were also the circumstances surrounding the inauguration of our 40th president, Ronald Reagan.
That's right; both were sworn into office on the same day, 28 years apart. Both made history, Obama the first black and Reagan the oldest person to serve in the nation's highest office. Both came to the office with Illinois roots.
Both called for personal responsibility and hope during a down time in American history.
The differences in policy between the two presidents are huge, admittedly, although Reagan was a Democrat when he was Obama's age.
It is true Reagan called for a lessening of government interference during his speech, while Obama is proposing a nearly trillion dollar spending package.
Yet watching the inauguration of President Obama, I couldn't help but catch some of that same hope, some of that "morning in America again" feeling that Reagan conveyed.
I don't agree with some of Obama's views, but I do agree with him that it's time to put petty politics aside and take personal responsibility for making the country better.
The huge crowd on the Washington Mall was a testimony of the goodwill the President has at least for the first months of his administration in carrying out his promises.
Now, whether President Obama will have an enduring legacy in his party as Reagan has with Republicans remains to be seen.
But based on his mostly centrist cabinet selections and the refreshing choice of Pastor Rick Warren for the inaugural prayer, it appears there is a genuine effort by the President to not lead from the left, but to reach out to all Americans.
There's a sense that he has the desire to set aside the potential for a bully pulpit mandate and instead govern us as indeed "one nation under God."
I hope I'm right.
There are still unknowns about this new president and it's still to be seen whether he'll have the will and sway to govern from the middle. But we do know this, we can pray.
In fact, the Bible calls us to pray for our new leader, this second history-making president from Illinois.