From the Publisher / Arnold G. York

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A road filled with hope

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”

Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution

With that simple oath and his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible, power passed from the 43rd president of the United States to his successor, the 44th president of the United States, as it has for the last 200-plus years in a continuous line of succession from George Washington to Barack Hussein Obama.

When the new president, full of optimism and hope, took his hand off that Bible I suspect he was struck by the enormity of what he had just undertaken. The complexity of our economic problems, a world looking to us for leadership but no longer willing to just follow us blindly, the deep divisions in our own country over our future path and the seeming intractability of some of our political disputes are still there. But despite all that, something wonderful, thrilling and historic has happened in the United States with the election of Obama. I certainly think that Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln would be astounded, as probably would be W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Forty years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. said he’d hoped to see the day when his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Sadly, Dr. King is not here to see that day, but it has come, and sooner, I believe, than many of us had ever expected.

There are still many problems ahead and the racial and ethnic barriers will not vanish quickly, but we as a people have made a gigantic step forward and have done something that probably wouldn’t happen in most of the world. The wrong color, the wrong ethnicity, the wrong heritage, the wrong pedigree, the wrong parents would block you permanently and forever from the top, but we have shown the world, and even more important ourselves, that we are Americans and we are truly different.

There will be time enough tomorrow to begin the litany of our problems, and the deep and difficult road back to economic prosperity, and perhaps putting us on the road to a less turbulent and more peaceful world. But for now, perhaps we should take a moment and think about what’s right with America. I know my mother’s family came to this country in the late 1800s as did many from Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe. My father arrived in 1920 from Paris, a 17-year-old kid who worked to bring the rest of his family over from France. They came for the same reason that most immigrants came then, and now-for a better life, for more opportunity. But immigration wasn’t just from other countries. Perhaps a larger part of the immigration was from small towns and harder lives on small farms. For many of us the path up was education, then typically public education, and a growing, booming country that needed everything, most of all our skills. Long term, that hasn’t changed. We’re going to struggle for a while but we’re still a growing country and we still need all those skills.

We’ve elected a president not only of mixed race, but one who is not that atypical. The child of very bright parents, raised by a single mom, absent father, with grandparents who were a mainstay in his life. There are probably tens of thousands of other kids out there just like that. Somewhere in the U.S. today there is a young girl or a young boy, perhaps a Caucasian, an Asian, a Hispanic or a Native American, or a mix of it all-who someday in the future is going to raise their arm and take an oath and become the president of the United States.