Monday, January 19, 2009

On the eve of history

Inauguration Day is tomorrow. I remember on Election Night an exchange with my sister about it feeling like Christmas Eve and how we just hoped that Santa brought us the gifts we asked for. Tomorrow that big ol' 10-speed bike shows up in Washington DC and gets sworn in and I'm just left wondering...

How can Barack Obama, how can any person, possibly come even within shouting distance of the expectations so many have placed on him?

Of course, the current (and soon to be former) resident of the White House has lowered the standard for even merely adequate performance to the point where a stoned orangutang on a tricycle would clear that particular bar. And yes, Obama's management of the transition and his initial appointments to key positions seem to range from the solid to the extremely good thus far. There are four more years to go though.

But have we built him up so much, assigned so many of our hopes to him, that there is no way he could do anything but fail to meet them? Every aspect of the presidency that is about to begin is hyper-realized – CNN/Microsoft are collaborating on a project entitled "The Moment" in which they are asking people attending the inauguration to attempt to document what they believe will be the most detailed experience of a single moment ever: Barack Obama taking the oath of office. An interesting project but that title -- The Moment -- comes weighted with such grandeur, such solemnity, that it just verges on the absurd and like so many pop culture events, will probably be interesting but in no way meet the expectations and the hype.

I fervently hope that the same will not be said of President Obama. So much is riding on his shoulders. If ever we needed someone to meet and exceed expectations, it's right now.

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