Yes, we’ve made it to 2009. All in all, 2008 was kind of a letdown, with economic recessions, astronomical gas prices, Russian invasions and the continuing fame of Miley Cyrus. On the brighter side, the election season finally ended, and Britney Spears actually got her act together. One can only hope that this coming year will bring more celebrity rehabilitations as well as an end to overrated tween pop stars. In addition, it would be a pleasant surprise to see a letup in our country’s economic woes and a jumpstart to our nation’s reputation.
With the election of a new president, the tides are changing both outside of our borders and within. In just a few short days, Barack Hussein Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Presidential inaugurations are often a time of patriotic revelry, when the metaphorical baton is passed from an unpopular president to a wildly idolized one.
The minister giving the inaugural invocation is the famous pastor and author Rick Warren, who presides at the gigantic Saddleback mega-church in California. Of course, controversy is always sparked when a prominent evangelist is asked to host a national event, since liberals complain that he’s too Christian and Christians complain that he’s not Christian enough. Obviously, Warren was picked for the ceremonies to continue Obama’s appeal as a moderate. The way I see it, if Obama really wanted to be moderate, he should have picked Ann Coulter (God bless her liberal-hating soul), just to balance things out. Now that would be entertaining! Alright, I’m only joking, but I do find it admirable that our up-and-coming president is willing to reach across party lines, especially for his own inauguration.
Regardless of political affiliation, I think Obama’s election marks a shift in American ideology. Gone are the days of carefree financial ignorance and pay-first, ask-questions-later mentalities. With financial crises on our hands, hindsight shows us the pitfalls of the American consumerist culture. Before, debt was a relatively harmless notion, but now the word contains serious repercussions. In the last several decades of American prosperity, the American Dream became synonymous with excess and was measured in terms of who owned the fanciest car, who had the nicest house and who received the fattest paycheck. As can be seen from the previous months, this materialistic “dream” inevitably ends with corruption, turmoil and discontent. Our negative image around the world is testament to American greed and narcissism. In order for our country to succeed in the future, the core principle of the American Dream needs to change.
Ultimately, the American Dream should be redefined as gaining fulfillment by fulfilling the needs of others. It’s a simple idea, but I think it has profound implications for daily life as well as for our country’s direction. By changing our national creed to one of humility and service, I believe we can overcome the pressing issues and social ills we experience today. While this idea of American social justice is by no means original, the conditions are ripe both culturally and politically for these concepts to take hold in the public consciousness.
In addition, the ideals of our new leaders promote the redefinition of the American Dream. In his years before politics, Obama, as you all know, served as a community organizer, rallying Chicagoans for various social and political causes. Regardless of what Sarah Palin says, I think there’s a lot of honor and integrity involved with assisting and organizing groups of people on a grassroots level. This dedication to serving others is what makes Obama a role model for this new American Dream.
Obama’s political convictions reflect the need to help and serve others. In his book The Audacity of Hope, he explains that the impetus of his political affiliation is based on “this idea that our communal values, our sense of mutual responsibility and social solidarity, should express themselves … through our government.” Essentially, government is responsible, along with other social institutions, for reinforcing the new American Dream—the dream of fulfilling the needs of others.
Obama’s inauguration is a time to celebrate a new direction for our country. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, whether you voted for Obama or not, I think we can all share a sense of pride that our nation isn’t bound to the status quo. Rather, we have the ability to move toward that ”more perfect union,” as it states in our constitution.
While on the topic of inaugurations, I must address the inauguration of this column. The purpose of this commentary isn’t to preach or to turn you into a Democrat or even to change your mind. My goal is to enlighten—to illumine various issues in sometimes silly, but hopefully relevant ways. And now, back to watching Britney Spears’ music videos …. Shine on, Gustavus!