One Year Later – There’s Still Hope

Today, there will appear in print places to read accounts of how President Barack Obama has done in his first 365 days in office. How his accomplishments – or lack thereof have measured up to the people’s expectations. Health care still is not a reality for countless Americans.  With the election of Scott Brown as the new Republican Senator from Massachusetts, there are 41 votes against it. Afghanistan has escalated, with more of our men and women fighting – and greater numbers dying. The strategy to get us out of there is not clear to the average American, and we can only hope it is clear to our leaders. As I said, there are countless places to read what President Obama has accomplished, and what he still has left to do.  But, none of this addresses why I am writing this post today.

I cannot help but think about where I was last year at this time. On 20 January 2009, Stewart and I were at the Staybridge Suites in Addison, TX. Addison is a northern suburb of Dallas. Back when I was growing up, Addison was not much more than a field. Now, it is a bustling town filled with life, and the headquarters of companies as diverse as Mary Kay Cosmetics, Dresser and Pizza Hut. Its airport is one of the busiest in the nation. If you can’t find what you’re looking for to eat along its Restaurant Row, then you mustn’t be very hungry.

This is what I wrote last year about the inauguration:

Today is a momentous day for all Americans, and for the world. For the 44th time, after a contemptuous election season, the transfer of power from one administration to the other, occurred without incident. Granted, Cheney went screaming and kicking, and had to be confined to a wheelchair, but he still went. That is what makes this country stand out as a beacon for so many other nations of the world whose elections are not transparent, and whose rightfully elected officials are blocked from assuming their rightful offices. It’s you, Mugabe, I’m talking to! It is a wonderful thing to witness. Even when we don’t agree with the election results, our candidate doesn’t win, we have an expectation, as Americans, that January 21st we will wake up to a peaceful nation with a new leader.

What I failed to include was the company with whom I shared this momentous event. Sadly, I failed to get their names, or take their pictures. However, our shared experience is indelibly imprinted in my memory forever. Sitting with me and Stewart that Tuesday morning last January were a housekeeper, a maintenance man, the woman who set out the breakfast each morning, a front desk clerk, and the hotel manager. At first reluctantly, then with palpable excitement they joined us around the table in the lobby clustered under the flat screen to watch the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the swearing in of Obama. My eyes shifted back and forth between the screen and them, observing the smiles on their faces, and hope in their eyes.

The maintenance man was originally from the West Indies. He was from a very poor country, and had come to the US looking for opportunities to improve his life, and that of his family. “Seeing a black man become president”, he told me, “shows me I made the right decision leaving my people and coming here.”

The woman I saw each morning, who smiled so kindly as I as I asked for tea, while everyone around me had coffee, spoke for herself and the housekeeper, who spoke no English. For them, it was very much the same thing. Having Obama as president meant the door was now wide open to people of colour. This led to a discussion among all of us about the next census and how the white males in this country were about to have their eyes open to the reality of who exactly is the average American these days. A few words were spoken, tongue in cheek, about how Wasilla, AK represents the Average American.

The additional perspective these women brought up was immigration. The way they saw it was the US was building a wall to separate them from their families. Their hope was that Obama would see that the America was better than that. That there was a way to help our neighbors to the south without creating a Berlin on our border. These were not their words, but this was certainly their sentiment.

Then there was the desk clerk and hotel manager. Both what would now be considered moving towards a minority of the population. The manager was a blonde woman, native of Texas, and the clerk, a man of the Heinz 57 variety so common in this country.  They stood back initially from our little menagerie, but as the obvious excitement at our table grew, they moved closer, and even interjected some comments about how they hoped Obama could actually deliver on some of the promises he made. Also, the manager admitted to not being a big fan of McCain. Not exactly an endorsement of Obama, but a step. Baby steps. The desk clerk added that he hoped no one tried to take Obama out because he couldn’t stand Biden.

There were countless places I could have gone last January to watch the swearing in of our 44th President. With my lifestyle, I could have gone to Washington, DC. When Bill Clinton was sworn in, I was right up there in front. Great memories. But for this particular president, in this time in history, I will be forever grateful that I got to watch it with the six people that I did. The maintenance man, the housekeeper, the woman who serves breakfast, the front desk clerk, the hotel manager, and last but not least, my husband, Stewart.

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4 comments for “One Year Later – There’s Still Hope

  1. January 20, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    It is not easy for the interests of the maintenance man, the housekeeper, the woman who serves breakfast, the front desk clerk, the hotel manager to be heard in the frenzy created around the birthers, anti-gay legislation and health care lies. Huge sums of money and effort has gone into making sure the American public takes their eye of the ball. And too many have. I’m so tired of having the GOP frame the issues. May that is the ultimate problem with compromise. It requires parties to deal with honor and good faith..even if there are differences.

    • MaraBG
      January 20, 2010 at 4:16 PM

      You raise an interesting point, Meryl. There has been a Dem majority in both the House and the Senate this entire first year. As much as I would love to point a finger at the GOP and its ilk for the inertia we seem to be experiencing in some areas, there would be four fingers pointing back at the party of majority. As long as there are lobbyist, there will be problems. But, that’s another post :)

  2. RDC
    January 25, 2010 at 2:39 AM

    Watching that day a year ago I felt pride that my country was growing up. I felt we could slip into a different era of tolerance and understanding by that transfer of power. It was our way for all of my life and it seemed to be based on the values of our better good.
    Today it seems that polite tolerance of “outsiders” is now stripped away with the perceived loss of power by the oligarchy. The transfer of our ideals had some reluctant participants and it was not obvious to me what I was witnessing. The America of my ideal a year ago was embodied in this man, this President would be enough.
    Now I see race still makes a difference when the elected President of the USA receives less than the office deserves. I see money flowing to influence even the majority we elected, further demonstrated by the outrageous Supreme Court decision. I see power over our citizens by our corporations against the better good. I see self interests limited to the life of this generation, without thought of the next. I see ‘we the people’ cower to the sudden increase of crazies.
    We elected a man and now we are letting him down because he has been left to the greedy Bastards of Washington, well oiled, well funded. The Corporate world taught me something. Everybody is expendable. Washington has become a corporation. President Obama is going to need some help. Our help.
    Yes one year later there is still hope and our responsibility more urgent.
    <3 Don't make me serious now!

    • MaraBG
      January 25, 2010 at 8:01 AM

      This has been a tough year. No doubt about it. However, my take on it is slightly different, RDC. Have you ever witnessed what happens when a parent out shopping takes a toy away from a spoiled child? Even if the toy doesn’t belong to the child, the sense of entitlement immediately creates a scene that makes a weak parent relent, and buy the toy. A strong parent holds her ground in spite of the stares of onlookers, and waits it out, knowing that eventually she will win out because she is right.

      President Obama and the majority of the American people want what is right for this country. We must be patient while we wait for the spoiled children to get over the loss of their misbegotten toys. It may appear that in the short term they are winning out, but they will lose in the end.

      On the other hand, as long as the “have-nots” believe they have the opportunity to become the “haves”, the laws will always be favourable to the rich. It’s human nature.

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