A Planet-Changing Election

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If Barack Obama wins the election today not only will it be “historic” for all of the reasons we’ve discussed throughout the long campaign, he surely will be our president for the next eight years. My nine-month-old baby daughter, Gianna Isabella, will be in the third grade when President Barack Obama leaves office.

If this election has been about anything it has been about the future of our children and the world’s children. I take solace in the idea that there could be young children living in the White House again. They are the future.

We have lost eight years under George W. Bush. The president of the United States is more than a reflection of his time — he shapes it. And our time, over the past eight years, has been shaped by an ignorant bully.

We have an opportunity today to show the rest of the world that we Americans are not warmongers and imperialists; that we are not authoritarians and militarists; and that we want to play a positive role in the community of nations and be a force for peace and do our part to save the planet from the perils of global climate change and other looming challenges.

It was the United States that gave humanity the priceless gift of the first photographs of our beautiful blue planet hanging in total blackness. When our astronauts of Apollo 8, the first humans to break out of Earth’s orbit, turned their cameras back on the Earth they captured a timeless image of our home, ourselves, and everything and everybody we hold dear. The moon landing took place the following year. And that astonishing achievement arose from the vision, imagination, and will of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The point is we have more to be proud of as Americans than just generating wealth and fighting wars. Barack Obama offers us the potential to reignite that vision and imagination. He has reformed his party and promises to reform the nation. His interest and engagement in foreign affairs and diplomacy give him the potential to do great things on the international stage, not only for Americans but also for the people of the world.

The world today is too interwoven and interconnected for the United States to bestride it like a menacing colossus. The problems we face are too big to be solved by any one nation no matter how big and powerful. Whether we are talking about making changes in our energy infrastructure to reduce green house gases; or abolishing nuclear weapons; or containing international terrorism; or stopping genocide; or, as the current financial crisis has shown, creating a stable and prosperous world economy, the lesson is clear: We must work together in the final analysis.

We must put aside our divisions and extend our hand to the nations of the world — including so-called rivals like China, India and Russia, and even to “enemies” like Iran and North Korea. There are too many nations in the world today armed to the teeth with high-technology weaponry to do otherwise. The problems of the 21st Century are global problems that require global solutions.

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We are going to need the talent, energy, and ingenuity of ALL Americans if we are going to do our part to help humanity grapple with the ominous global challenges we face in the 21st Century. We can no longer afford to cast off millions of our own citizens and consign them to poverty zones with no health care and substandard schools. Over the course of his nearly two-year presidential campaign, Barack Obama has proven that he is the right leader at the right time. He has the vision, the imagination, and the will to be a great president if only the voters give him the chance.

by Joseph Palermo

Mr. Palermo is Associate Professor of American History at CSU, Sacramento. He’s the author of two books on Robert F. Kennedy: In His Own Right (2001) and RFK (2008).

Reprinted with permission from the author.

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