Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama Defines Our Path

by Richard Crews
Sometimes things that are all around us are too close or too big for us to see clearly. Sometimes, although we see them and know they are important, they are too new and too diffuse for us to bring onto sharp focus. Sometimes the difficulty with our vision--with our ability to frame these important patterns and questions in ways that convey their true weight--is that we are missing the philosophical breadth, the practiced cognitive skills, or the verbal artistry to encompass them, sort them out, and package them meaningfully. And finally, sometimes--even if all three of these difficult challenges can be overcome--no single, heroic individual comes forward who has the personal dignity and weight of authority to herald our attention.

On the historic occasions when all four of these vectors come together, humanity has a chance to catch its breath; to see revealed, looking back, its footsteps and the path it has been on; to view the landscape around it; and to cast its sights forward--knowing, anew, which way IS forward--having, anew, an accurate map, a true compass, and restrengthened souls fit for the journey ahead.

Such is our moment if we see it and seize it.

Over the past several years, as Barack Obama has come into public focus and made his way to the presidency of the U.S., he has provided a series of epochal formulations: refocusing our vision and re-framing the key questions of our day--the ones, in fact, on which our magnificent but teetering and fragile civilization will stand or fall--the ones, in fact, on which the habitability of the world our children and grandchildren will inherit depends.

I am referring to his speeches on--

politics (democratic governance and populist participation),

race (with its magnificent potential and terrible dangers),

peace (with, nonetheless, strength and determination to act when necessary),

global ecology (and the dark clouds of nuclear annihilation and industrial pollution that hang over it),


We live at a time of profound and rapid technological changes coupled with worldwide population overflow. To deal with these effectively, we will need more than the vast scientific data we are accumulating. We will even need more than the powerful knowledge that can be extracted from these data. We will need three higher derivatives--the wisdom to enfold this knowledge in clear and accurate historical perspective, the leadership to show us the way, and the strength and determination to act individually and in concert.

Can we do it? The future of humanity and of the planet we inhabit--the physical, emotional, and spiritual habitability of the world we leave our children--depend on it.

It was said of Gandhi, although many could not see it at the time, that "future generations will stand in awe that such a man walked among us." I believe the same is true of Barack Obama.