The Man Comes Around

Created on 20/1/2009

Today I welcome President Barack Obama to his new post. Ironically, as I started to write this article the play list I was listening to automatically selected Johnny Cash singing “The Man Comes Around”. There could not be a more appropriate theme tune for the next few years. “ Behold a white horse,” sings Cash, and the question is stark, is our society ready to die an ignominious death or is there some glory yet to be won by us in ways yet unimagined if we follow the black man riding our white horse?

There are, without doubt, wholly unrealistic expectations for Obama that he couldn’t fulfill even if he were the Messiah, which for the sake of those of you too dewy eyed to realize, he isn’t and doesn’t claim to be.

We understand the sheer excitement and exuberance of the day brought about because the man is seen as the natural inheritor of greatness bestowed on the first African American to achieve the dream passed to him directly from the founding fathers, through Abraham Lincoln via Martin Luther King.

The rest of the world, almost without exception, shares America’s excitement about today’s events. The reason for this is that the world actually likes and admires America. We share many common dreams and aspirations, and the world wants America to do well but it no longer enjoys America acting as the lone gunfighter taking on the guy in the black hat alone. Now the time has come for a series of genuine partnerships built around political consensus. Both the problems and solutions are global. Obama clearly understands this and we can only hope that this is the path he intends to pursue, even when the going gets tough.

Obama passed the first test, which wasn’t easy, in winning the Primaries against some super tough opposition in the person of Hillary Clinton who he later had the good sense to appoint as his Secretary of State; he then vanquished a creditable and honest competitor in John McCain. But that is now just history, and today the clock starts on the new President and what he can actually achieve in office.

There will inevitably be a honeymoon period when everything the newly elected President does is viewed in a rosy hue that lends brilliance and luster to his every action. Because of the unique circumstances surrounding his inauguration, turning it into more of a coronation, it’s likely this period might last more than a year. Lest you forget Prime Minister Blair and President Bush both had remarkably successful honeymoon periods in office but left under clouds of suspicion and loathing.

We can only use today to pause and speculate on the enormity and complexity of the problems facing Obama. No incoming President has had as much to deal with on day one in office. Not just a total financial and economic collapse, but two wars and problems in the Near and Middle East, Latin America and we could go on, but it would just serve to depress what should be a day of celebration and joy that this man’s perceived ability alone has catapulted him to the highest elected office in the world. Can we dare hope that this man is the lever around which we find the tipping point where America and the West reassert its moral purpose and compass? It would be wonderful if this were the case.

Right now America needs a great leader and as the saying goes, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. Whatever our personal views on Margaret Thatcher she took the UK from an ungovernable economic basket case and totally turned it around, so one motivated and determined person of enormous vision can lead us and save the situation. Is Obama that man?

The world joins America in praying for the new President to be as good as he looks and sounds, we could all do with some calm, astute and well intentioned leadership shaped by humanity, intelligence and heart. The world welcomes President Barack Obama.