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Capitol Heat and Power

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 22.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Feeling good about Barack
In a time of great challenges, Obama is right for the job

When I heard the announcement that "Sen. Barack Obama is now President-Elect Obama," the flood dams broke, letting loose a torrent of tears. A new era was born.

Obama is a force of nature. The impact he has on people just with his presence is nothing short of astounding. And now this beacon of hope for people all over the world will be the 44th president of the United States of America.

World reaction gave me goosebumps, as I watched children from Obama's former grade school in Indonesia jump up and down while shouting his name in unison.

His Kenyan tribal people danced, with smiles that outshone the sun. People all over the world celebrated; this time no flag burning, no burning in effigy of the leader of the free world.

I remain stunned by this historic event. Not only because an African American finally rose to the ultimate seat of power, but also because the process brought people together unlike in any other time since the civil rights movement.

So, given this momentous occasion, I find myself utterly surprised by how some dyed-in-the-wool Democrats could express such doubt of Obama's abilities to tackle the mess left behind by the George W. Bush White House.

"I'm a Hillary supporter, so let me just start there," said an African American woman I approached on Nov. 4 after she left her polling station.

"Hillary has more experience than Obama. He's going to need a lot of strong support."

A Democratic Congress and White House, she went on to say, does not mean that Obama will be able to get things done.

The woman told me she used to live in Chicago, and was not impressed with Obama then, even though "my friends knew him, had him over to their house. They have pictures of him everywhere."

Not to be deterred, I turned to another woman leaving the building. Her face was familiar, and she was eager to talk.

"It's about time we had someone who can get the job done," she told me enthusiastically. "And it's about time we had a person of color in the White House." My sentiments exactly.

But let us not sugarcoat the challenges before our nation and its next president.

Unemployment's up. Housing foreclosures continue unabated. Retailers are uneasy as they prepare for the holiday shopping season.

Two wars are blazing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia is not playing well with others. And Iran is forcing the European Union's and NATO's hands while its nuclear power plant construction continues.

But I choose in my own heart to stand with the woman I met at the polls who has optimism for the future, not the one who feels ambivalence about Obama's ability to lead.

I was fortunate to have a short conversation with Obama during one of his Madison visits. This man is brimming with brilliance. I could see and feel his calmness.

Obama stands in the eye of the hurricane. Our country, our world, needs this type of leader now.

Not since FDR in 1932 has our nation needed someone who commands the American people to step up and be a part of the solution.

Even before he takes over as president, Obama is beginning to lead. George Bush's incompetence has forced him to pull his cabinet and White House staff together in a hurry.

Already, he's made smart picks: Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff and former campaign press guru Robert Gibbs as his press secretary. Other picks may emphasize his willingness to strike a bipartisan tone.

A learning curve awaits him, but Obama is already having an impact. He is issuing a call to action about our need to be part of the solution.

And already, Barack Obama has established himself as a role model for African American youth. I learned that a teacher in one of Madison's suburban high schools overheard several African American students say they needed to heed Obama's call to pull together.

I wish there was time for more celebrating, to pause and take in this historical event. But there isn't.

The time has come for all of us to work together. This election was not about him, Obama says, and he's right. It's about us. This is our country.

Let's roll up those sleeves and get to it.

Steve Braunginn is a writer, radio host, businessman and community activist.

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