January 20, 2010

Letter to Obama, My President

President Obama took the inaugural oath one year ago today.  Those who supported him worldwide felt so much awe, triumph, and hope one year ago, yet today many are disillusioned, worried, and impatient. If the 10% national unemployment rate isn't disheartening enough, the latest million dollar bonuses in the banking industry, the stalled health care bill, and the election of a Republican to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat are enough to dash the last vestiges of hope any of us may have had for real change.

Here I sit, melancholy and subdued.   If I could write a letter to my president, Barack Obama, it would go something like this:

Mr President:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! 

-Rudyard Kipling

Yes, if I could, I would forward Kipling's perennial words to President Obama with a note in my own prose saying, "We are counting on you not to fail.  We need you to change the course of history in an irrevocable extraordinary way.  You must not falter.  You are the hope and the dream of the slave."