By Ken Connor
It's official. Barack Obama is the new President of the United States. All of the excitement, angst, and exhaustion of the presidential race is behind us, and we are on the threshold of four years under a new national leader.
Mr. Obama's inauguration was a momentous occasion. As our first African-American President, his election serves as a great encouragement that our country is moving towards a more complete embrace of one of its great founding principles: the equality of all men. As President of our country, Mr. Obama deserves our respect and needs our prayers. But some, in their excitement over the historic nature of his election, appear to offer him their adulation. We would all do well to realize, however, that he is just a man—fallible and flawed like other human beings. President Obama will inevitably stumble, he will not live up to all of his promises, and he will not be able to solve every national crisis. In the midst of the Inauguration hoopla, let us pause to recognize the limitations of his humanity and his post.
In reality, no one man can save a nation. A number of voters who placed such great hopes in an Obama Presidency have already been disappointed—and he has only just taken office. His decisions during the Presidential transition period raised many questions and much commentary, but one thing is clear: even before he took office, people's illusions about Obama were fading. He left many of his most fervent supporters wondering why he appeared to be waffling on his campaign promises.
Realism is the grease of the gears of politics, so it should not surprise us that President Obama has already been qualifying his previous campaign promises and dampening the hopes of his supporters. Regardless of their political stripe, no politician ever fulfills every campaign promise. The wheels of Washington grind much too fine for that. Those who put their dreams in the hands of politicians inevitably will be disappointed.
We would do well to remember that President Obama is merely a civil servant. He operates in the political realm. Having just taken office, he is confronted with an array of national problems, including disintegrating families, an ailing economy, a two front war, and a bubbling cauldron in the Middle East. Many of these problems have roots that extend far beyond the political realm. They involve cultural, moral, and spiritual issues. As the nation's top political leader, Mr. Obama will not be able to address the root causes of many of our problems. To the extent that these problems have political dimensions, our new President can and should address them. But beyond the civil realm, other cultural institutions (church, family, local communities, etc.) must take the lead.
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In the hands of the Master, the heart of the king is like the windings of the waterways. The Lord can turn it whichever direction His plan for a nation will go.