Sunday, January 25, 2009

A New Start for Our Nation

Last Tuesday, I was proud to be present at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

I guess you could say that I was representing our beautiful City of Ventura, although I was so far back I could barely see the new president, surrounded as I was by a couple of million other people. But it was a moving experience nevertheless, and one that filled me with optimism about our future.

Like so many other Americans – and Venturans – I have been disturbed by the direction of our country in recent years. Whether justified or not, the long war in Iraq has sapped our strength and our financial resources; and the recent economic crisis had placed a shadow over virtually everything in our lives. All of us are less well off than we were a couple of years ago; and on the City Council we now must face up to cuts of 10% or more to balance the budget.

Even with all these problems weighing heavily, it is hard not to feel good about the new president.

The mere fact that we have elected an African-American president – and one of such an unusual background (mixed race, Muslim father, grew up in Hawaii) – says a great deal about the resilience of our nation. Simply to be present in D.C. at such an historic time was both exciting and an honor. (We booked out plane tickets on election day; only later did we discover that we would get tickets, thanks largely to Rep. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara.) Attending the Sunday concert at the Lincoln Memorial was awe-inspiring. And listening to the new president was both challenging and reassuring.

I am a fan of Obama’s soaring rhetoric; I believe he is a great writer and a great speaker. Yet in his Inaugural Address he deliberately kept the rhetoric close to the ground, and rightly so. He did not sugar-coat the challenge ahead of us. Rather, he warned us that it will take a long time, a lot of sacrifice, and many hard decisions to return us to both peace and prosperity.

I returned to Ventura far more willing to make those hard choices – in my work on the City Council, in my day job, and in my private life. The sacrifices will not be easy, but in the end they will be worth it.

You can view a video I recorded in D.C. for the Ventura County Star here.

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