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Change: So... Thinking one things is going to change everything makes me nervous, not least because I've fallen into that trap myself, that of thinking: once x happens everything will be perfect. Not so. Thinking one person is going to change everything is just as dangerous, especially if that person happens to be a politician.

The most exciting thing about Obama, however, is not the man himself, necessarily, so much as what he had inspired: the grass roots movement, the interest in civics and democracy, a first for many people. What made me nervous was that people might think, once he was elected, okay, great job us, then go home and wait around for Change to happen. One person can't change the world, or America, even if that person is the most powerful person among us. If we want America to change, we have to do it ourselves. I read this in the letters to the editor section of the New Yorker the day before I left the US, and it really struck a cord with me:

The question is whether we can make the personal sacrifices necessary to change ourselves or whether we believe that change is only about what leadership we select... [We need to] realize that there is more to being good citizens than going to the polls. Jon Gilmore, Oct 27, 2008.

Then, after the election, was Friendman on the NY Times:

But a new politics of the common good can’t be only about government and markets. “It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen,” said Sandel. “This is the deepest chord Obama’s campaign evoked. The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service — in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.”

So, a couple days in, and the new administration-to-be already looks like it's shaping up to be something like what we hoped. I'm a little less nervous. Or, as Becca said, "it's an interesting time to be alive."


© 2002-2010 Rachel Richardson.