My kids have pictures of their President in their bedrooms. Like an earlier generation had pictures of FDR or Truman or Eisenhower or Kennedy hanging in their homes, their is no question that ours is the generation whose children are likely to have revived the adoration of their national leader, iconized him, and brought him into the home, like he once was. The neo-traditionalism of this gesture is unmistakable. It's related to the basic thesis of President Obama's candidacy, now being put to the test: a candidacy of strong moral and ethical leadership that is meant to translate into a Presidency rooted in strong moral and ethical leadership.
We are all over the map on our assessment of this leadership. From gas emissions and the auto industry to Israel/Palestine, Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan; from abortion to health care--those who embraced a new era of dynamic and engaging leadership is struggling with reality of political leadership complex trajectory toward change. It never happens overnight; it rarely comes without a cost; no one person can ever go it alone.
Tom Coburn of Oklahoma clucks like a rooster because he attaches to a credit card bill the "right" of Americans to carry weapons into National Parks. Dick Cheney relentlessly rides the airwaves defending his legacy while the President attempts to steady the ship of state when it comes to the ethics of interrogation. The President's own Democratic leadership abandons him on key issues while protecting their own base, defending democracy's classic first ethic: "first" get elected. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi may have gotten us out of Egypt; but who will be the Joshuas to lead us into the Promised Land?
Putting the girls to bed tonight I was reminded of the reality of seeing their leader's visage looking down upon them. It will take a generation--40 years--to tackle the problems that have piled up in our nation. Roads and schools; energy and health care; national service and the common defense. One leader is never enough but the ability of one leader to galvanize a generation to serve, to work for change, and to bring others along--now that's an accomplishment that is a blessing to witness.
Each night before going to sleep, the girls say their prayers. They ask God to protect the family; to look after their friends; and to care for our ancestral homelands--Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Israel. And each night they say, "God bless the Obamas, and Israel, and Iraq."
And tonight, with that mid-May breeze warmly blowing in the window, I realized that their prayers, as children, are as aspirational as the policies created by the adult mind of a legislator seeking change. The relentless effort to enact a law is one thing; the law's ultimate effect on the society which enacts it is a reality whose end is seldom realized. As if to say: "What I won't realize I leave to others to dream for." Or, "I dream so you can dream and ultimately another generation will realize what it is we want."
And so it goes. Less than six months into the leadership of a dreamer, we're nowhere near realizing the dream. Except to remember--and to realize--that the fulfillment is an ever-elusive obligation, a striving toward completion that gets us closer than the prior generation but never quite there, because that would be the end.
Word to the wise: tire not. Don't let the unattainability of that end persuade you from pursuing its realization.
Important Torah: You are not obligated to complete the task; at the same time, you are not free to hold yourself back from trying.
God bless those who try.