Some, I know, are tired of the mention of the history that will transpire at noon Eastern Time Tuesday. As the moment approaches I find myself struggling to say any more on it. Before the end of 2008 I got to meet a couple of people who will be there Tuesday, because they were also there in the thick of the civil rights movement.
Today Obama spoke to the Wall Street Journal of personal responsibility:
“Given the crisis that we’re in and the hardships that so many people are going through, we can’t allow any idle hands,” Mr. Obama said, taking a break from painting a dormitory at Sasha Bruce House, a shelter for homeless teens. “Everybody’s got to be involved. Everybody’s going to have to pitch in, and I think the American people are ready for that.”
While much of the criticism of Obama has come from those who believe what he will really issue in is an additional sense of entitlement among Americans, he has consistently said that Americans as a whole and individual Americans would need to do whatever work is needed to fix whatever needs fixing or improve whatever needs improving.
In a story I wrote in February that was one of the themes I pulled.
“Basically, Seattle, I was betting on you,” he said. “I believe change happens not from the top down, but from the bottom up.”
He said that Americans were decent and generous and would accept the challenge to be better.
“That was the bet I was making one year ago,” he said. “I am here to report the bet has been paid off and my faith in the American people has been vindicated.”
The lead that appears in that story was not what I wrote. It was edited, I suppose, to be clearer than what I put down. To me the starkest difference I saw in talking to Clinton supporters the night before and Obama supporters that morning was that Hillary Clinton supporters were saying how great she was, but the Obama supporters talked of how he inspired them to be great.
Here we are now, hours before the pudding’s proof begins to become evident. Americans took a leap of faith on a guy with as little history as any we’ve ever elected, because, I believe, he not only made them trust him, he inspired them to have faith in themselves. It’s one thing to do it as a candidate. So far, the signs I’ve seen are that Obama’s listening and that Republicans are not yet trying to yank the rug out from under him. As many have pointed out, there’s more resistance coming from his own party. But anything we’ve seen is based on speculative scenarios, because Obama has had sway without real power. Tomorrow we’ll begin to see if he can hang on to the sway when the power comes his way.