The pomp and ceremony leading to the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States has started. Today he’s leaving Philadelphia by train, mimicking the trip that brought Abraham Lincoln to Washington. On Sunday in Washington there will be a concert with a “who’s who” of the music world performing, stars reportedly all eager to be a part of the celebration. Monday is Martin Luther King Day in the US, and Obama has asked for people to devote the holiday to community service. Tuesday is the inauguration, which Obama has indicated will be the most “open and accessible” of any held to date.
Like a lot of people watching the events from afar, I find myself thinking about a possible new age in the US. Obama is one of the best speakers to appear in quite a while, and it’s not hard to get pulled into the idea that something truly different and exciting is about to happen. Certainly he comes to the job with possibly more work facing him than many presidents have had: two wars on the go, an economy that is staggering on the edge of collapse, continuing conflicts in the world that the US must take a stand on, the need to be less dependent on oil, and hotspots like Iran and North Korea always seeking attention. The US, and to some extent the western world, is looking for great things from this man. Great challenges can bring out the best in a leader who is capable of handling them.