Thursday, January 22, 2009
I phoned one of my best friends in the late afternoon of Inauguration Day, during that brief calm between the end of the Inauguration Parade and the beginning of the inauguration balls. That's when the Obamas were out of public view as they changed into ball gown and tuxedo. I knew my buddy would have to take a breather from her marathon TV watching and that would probably be the right time. I guessed correctly. But what I didn't count on was the huge emotional hangover she was suffering or enjoying. She told me she had cried all day and couldn't talk until she recovered from the onslaught of tears. So I'm giving her space. But during the next call, I'll want to know exactly why she cried and what does she want the American public to do next.
Yes! I said what should the American public do next. They started their job when they elected Barack Obama to be president in a landslide electoral victory . But he's not superhuman. As much as he might try, he cannot single-handedly or even with his advisors and cabinet secretaries, reverse the economic crisis, resolve the turmoil in the Middle East, provide equitable and affordable quality health care to every American, clean up government, reduce our nation's contribution to global warming, guarantee an excellent education for every child, and find jobs for the unemployed - at least not in his first week, month, or even year in office.
The traditional honeymoon with Congress will be short-lived as the romance of Inauguration Day fades and the realities of partisan politics replace the tradition and ceremony of a special few hours. And that's where the American public comes in for its second act. That vote for Obama now must be followed by pressure from his supporters. The so-called special interests in this nation don't have to be limited to corporations, drug companies, and Wall Street. The same individuals who voted in this president can collectively and vigorously lobby their president and Congress to focus on health care, education, the environment, the economy, the wars, and any other major issue that needs attention.
In his Inaugural Address , Barack Obama said our economy is badly weakened in part by "our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age." The operative word there is "collective," meaning all of us failed, not just the greedy and irresponsible. So now, we need our collective strength to work for the good of the nation. It was the civil rights movement that pressured Lyndon Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . Abraham Lincoln was not in favor of abolition, but succumbed to enormous pressure from abolitionists to become the great emancipator . Aristocrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was lobbied by a coalition consisting of organized labor, ethnic minorities, urbanites and Southern whites to craft the New Deal and put middle-class Americans back to work.
Inauguration Day was a bare beginning. As the high drama fades with the passage of time, I will call my friend and ask her what she is looking for from the Obama years and what will be her role in the second act.
Abbe Wolfsheimer Stutz
January 22, 2009 at 10:29 PM
For many years, I've used a phrase that seems to express O's vision: "We have to clean up the kitchen before we can bake a cake." Obama emphasized that if all of us help wash the dirty pots and pans, (and scrub the grease from the government oven), we'll bake that cake much faster and enjoy it twice as much.
Gloria Penner from KPBS
January 22, 2009 at 10:51 PM
Since Abbe Wolfsheimer Stutz had 8 years on the San Diego City Council trying to effect positive change during a particularly stressful period in the city 's political history, her comment carries weight and experience, and I thank her for it.