At the “We Are One” concert, Barack Obama easily outclasses Bruce Springsteen.
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Professor Javier Gálvez, a professor of pre-Colombian music, dance and culture at Claremont College in California, was dressed in rather impressive Aztec regalia that included feathers at least five feet long. He directs an Aztec dance group called Danzantes del Sol. He was also a local organizer for the Obama campaign and was given tickets for the inauguration.
“I support Obama because he is an indication of a new path, a change in the world, a change in this nation, and an opportunity for everybody,” said Gálvez. “I believe he will bring the changes necessary to see that we have a better nation and a better world.”
Another person from California, Kris Stone, said, “Obama’s the hope for the future. This is the signal of the long national nightmare being over with the Bush Administration and what they’ve done to this country. I believe they’ve gone a long way to destroy it. And you just heard President Obama, all this hope he’ll bring us, and I think he’ll bring us together and start to solve these problems.”
During his brief speech, Obama used some form of “hope” six times. In one passage he said:
Obama’s ability to inspire is his greatest asset. It may also prove to be his greatest liability. With big hope comes big expectations. If Obama cannot fulfill most of those expectations — make a better nation and world, bring us all together, be a great leader — it will surely create big disappointment.
Obama seems to sense this, and part of his speech tried to temper the enormous sense of hope that he has inspired:
That sentiment may have sunk in with some in the crowd.
Cliff Valenti, a software developer in D.C., told me, “What appeals to me [about Obama] is the change aspect. That doesn’t mean that I’m not proceeding warily. I don’t like that he reversed on FISA during the election…. I’m hoping just for government that’s more for the people although I don’t know if that’s what I’ll get.”
Even McKenna Black, when asked what she thought the country would look like four years from now, replied, “Honestly, it’s gonna be difficult. I understand that it’s not going to be, ‘All of sudden Obama’s here and everything is gonna be perfect.’”
Nevertheless, it was clear that Obama’s inspiration moved her more than his sobriety: “I think there is going to be a ‘Before Obama’ and an ‘After Obama.’ It’s gonna make a big difference.”
Obama can keep that sense of optimism going for quite a while. Yet he has built up such big expectations that, in the long run, he seems to have nowhere else to go in people’s eyes but down. If, as I fear, his economic stimulus package actually worsens the economy, the great edifice of hope Obama has constructed will come crashing down. And that may be something that even the most inspirational rhetoric cannot overcome.
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