I spent much of yesterday writing a carefully researched and documented essay comparing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with the aim of demonstrating why the former was a better choice for President than the latter. As it sat this evening in not-quite-done mode on my laptop, my ten-year-old son crawled into my lap and asked me what I was working on. We talked a little about current politics, and the Presidential primaries, and somehow in the conversation it was mentioned that Senator Clinton had urged the citizens of this nation not to indulge in false hopes by voting for such an “inexperienced” candidate as Senator Obama. To which my son replied
There are no false hopes. We need all the hope we can get. We have been living in a cultural dark ages, and it’s time we crawled out of it.
Seeing the terribly serious look on my son’s face as he said this sent shivers up my spine and reminded me what all the politics is really for. We are fighting these battles not for ourselves, to see our own ideas writ large across the face of this country, but for our children and our neighbors and all the people with whom we don’t agree. We all want to feel safe in our homes, we all want to believe that justice can once again be a word whose meaning we all understand. We all want our children to be fed and cared for, and we all want our elders to be able to retire with dignity. We all want clean air and clean water, and we all want each person to have an equal opportunity to make their mark on the world. We all need a release from the fear and the cynicism and the paralyzing sensation of helplessness which has become an inherent and accepted tradition among American citizens. We are all fighting so hard because we care so much, and in the end we care about the same things. We need to believe once more that perhaps there is something valuable our nation has to offer. That we can overcome our surface differences, our disparate religions and political parties and notions of what solutions will provide the best way forward to recognize that we are all, in the end, looking for the same thing: America.
It’s not a false hope to say that perhaps we can find a way forward. It’s not a false hope to say we can talk to each other and take the best parts from every system of belief and meld them into a new whole which may be greater than its various parts. We would be fools to let the cynics dictate our future. If all you ever have are small dreams, then the best you can ever achieve is a small vision, not much greater than where you started. But with big dreams, the dreams that have lain dormant in the hearts and minds of every person in this nation as we felt our country spinning farther and farther away from its original promise, every step we take forward is one piece in a much greater whole. We are at a juncture where only big dreams and the courage to hope will spark real change.
The quality that Barack Obama has which Hillary Clinton will never share is the ability to inspire. The President of the United States does not make the laws. He cannot enforce justice or ensure that our babies are born safely or promise care for our elderly. But what he can do, must do, is be the inspiration to others to try harder, work together, to make change happen. He must be a force which people want to follow, who gives us a reason to believe. Listening to people talk about Obama, reading the editorials, the bloggers, and even those who have come forward to endorse him, it is clear that not only do they want him for President: they believe in him. In Obama they see not a single man, they see a movement in which we are all a part, a slowly swelling tidal wave which can sweep over this nation and perhaps create something greater than any individual could ever accomplish.
Think, for just a moment, of the potential in that belief, of the power of a nation which could once again see past the divisive politics of the last seven years. And then please, when you close that little curtain and cast your vote, have the courage to hope.