Dear President-Elect Obama:
Congratulations on your resounding victory in the last week’s Presidential election!
The hopes and dreams of millions of voters, young and old, from diverse backgrounds and cultures, are now in your hands. Their expectations are high, and you must not disappoint. It’s been noted that the country has been driven into a ditch; perhaps there’s even a flat tire, so getting back on the highway will be even more difficult.
Those challenges are tempered with an enthusiasm and positive outlook that our nation has not enjoyed in many years. As I visited the 28 precincts in the Mason magisterial district of Fairfax County, Virginia (a battleground state as you know), the excitement was palpable. Veteran poll watchers worked alongside brand new voters, and some students too young to vote. No one complained about the length of time they had to wait in line. In fact, they chatted in line with their neighbors about how happy they were to be there. Everyone was proud of exercising that basic right and responsibility of democracy: the right to vote.
Just as everyone is proud of the result, so too, I think, are they ready to work together on the challenges ahead. Even though the Presidency may be the loneliest job in the world, the people do not expect you to do it all alone. They know that to achieve the objectives you outlined in your victory speech on Election Night will take everyone’s efforts, working together, patiently, deliberately, in a bipartisan or even non-partisan fashion. I hope you will remind us, as the solutions prove to be elusive or hard to define and implement, that patience is a virtue, and governance is hard.
I especially liked your comments about our nation not being blue states, or red states, but the United States. Sometimes, when typing the words “United States,” I find in proofreading that I have made it the “Untied States.” Yet, that’s what we have become during the past several years, the untied states, and we must work to become united once again. For our strength is in our diversity, in our respect for one another, and recognizing that what is important is our similarities rather than differences when addressing the problems that affect us all. Too often we get caught up in differences, which are very small in comparison to our similarities.
Local elected officials find that most people want the same things – good schools, safe streets, clean water and clean air, a sustainable quality of life. However, those issues that can be addressed only at a higher governmental level – the economy, foreign policy, justice, health care, for example, will require new and positive partnerships that your presidency will create. Senator-elect Mark Warner and Congressman-elect Gerry Connolly are important new partners in that effort. And Virginia’s local elected officials stand ready to heed your call, too. We all have to work together to get out of that ditch.