It’s hard to think of anything else on the day after a presidential race comes to its close. There are a lot of very happy people today in the circles closest to me, and I’m sure some less happy among some of my family members.
The people having spoken, and so I will take some advice from the chosen leader of these United State of America on a topic I tend to dote on. In his acceptance speech late last night, President Obama said, “I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”
It is that very hope that puts me between two towering pillars on a thin rope. Because hoping for something too high puts a person in danger of being mistaken for one of many cynics.
I am inspired by the enthusiasm and charisma of this young president, but as he so truly insists, the work of the citizenry is not limited to one dramatic gesture every four years.
In 1998, I registered to vote as an independent in my home state of Pennsylvania, and through many residences have maintained that affiliation. I grew up a short trolley ride from the city that houses the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and many of our nation’s natal treasures. Perhaps it was all those visits to the cradle of our nation that formed my strong sentiments on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps it was predestined.
I believe in the common sense of Thomas Paine who wrote, “Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
This is what hope is to me. Perhaps it is the same beat that keeps time in the breast of our President. My hope is that the people of all nations will stand up for what is right always, against all odds, without fear of retaliation or punishment. My hope is that we will stop seeing our own interests as paramount, and reveal a common interest. That our criminal rehabilitation programs will resemble the care given to those in need of physical rehabilitation. That no person will ever go to bed hungry again.
My hope is that we will evolve beyond the tight shells that restrict our movements, and develop a genuine respect and care for all the people of our country and the world.
The work of the citizenry is not done when its chosen leader is elected. This country is too big to entrust one man, or even 10,000 with its welfare.
A certain Albanian Social Studies teacher gave me my first “C” in the 9th grade. He also taught me that what we have in this country is a democratic republic. He also taught me to challenge my world. This is my challenge. If we are only a democratic republic, where elected officials control our destiny, why do we spread the kindling word “democracy” near and far?
The people know, somewhere in their depths, that they are in charge. Not just because they flock to town halls every first Tuesday of November, but because the world belongs to them. And they are responsible for it. The cogs of democracy are small. They are bake sales, letters to prisoners, saving leftovers for the woman sleeping on the park bench, taking out our neighbors trash. Each piece is vital, and each person can and does make a difference every day.
There is hope, but it does not lay in the results of a single election. It lies sleeping in the caverns of our intellect, begging to be shaken awake. Ready to take over the world.