Flames of the Torch

President Barack Obama’s historic rise to the presidency, from its beginnings in the Democratic primaries to his decisive victory in the 2008 presidential election, has been marked by an enthusiasm and energy that only increased in momentum as the days and weeks passed.

When the results of the election were announced on the night of Nov. 4, the reaction was astounding. People ran out into streets, screaming and crying in pure jubilation over Obama’s victory. Cell phone signals were blocked by the sheer number of phone calls being made to share the news and celebrate with distant friends and family.

On the St. John’s campus, the atmosphere was simply electrifying. Students poured out from the dormitories to form a huge crowd in celebration on the quads, in front of Donovan Hall, and on the Great Lawn. Students then filed into an already standing-room-only viewing party in Council Hall in order to watch Obama’s victory speech.

Some might think that this was the end of the story, that all those who gave their energy and their vote in support of Barack Obama have done their part and can now sit back to reap the benefits. With Barack Obama in the White House, the country should begin to right itself, the economy should bounce back, and the standing of the U.S. in the world stage should improve.
Unfortunately, that is not a foregone conclusion.

Now that Obama is President, there is an even greater need for the support and energy of every American, whether or not they voted Democrat in Nov. For those who voted for Barack Obama, his win is not a one-step solution to the nation’s woes.

Those Americans who wished the election had gone another way should know that Obama’s entry to the White House does not mean the end of the country, either.

What happens in the next four years will determine whether the United States continues to fall or if it can rise from the ashes of the economic decline and wars abroad.

As Barack Obama has said in his speeches time and again, the true test of the nation is how we face these grave issues.

The inauguration on Tuesday proved to be a great start for the next four years. The intensity that the record-setting approximately two million attendees of the inauguration brought with them to Washington, D.C., in addition to the countless millions of viewers who took time out of work or school to watch the ceremony on television, show that the momentum that brought Barack Obama into office has not died just yet.

Again, St. John’s was a microcosm of the extraordinary spirit associated with Obama’s presidency. A viewing party of approximately 100 students, staff, and administrators came together to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address.

Americans must realize that this is not the end of their involvement. After the jubilation of Obama’s entrance to the White House passes, it will be time to begin the bitter work of getting the economy back on track, restoring the standing of the U.S. in the world, bringing the war in Iraq to a close, and dealing with the ever-present threats to the nation’s safety.

These problems cannot and will not be solved overnight. Plans must be enacted, difficult choices must be made, and positive action must be taken. While this is ultimately the task of our elected officials, the nation as a whole must stand behind them.

“A New Birth of Freedom” was the theme of Barack Obama’s inauguration, marking the 300th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. This makes a famous line from Lincoln’s acceptance speech for the 1858 Illinois senate primaries seem even more appropriate: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

This is no longer the time to point fingers or to draw lines dividing the nation over issues of race, religion, or party affiliation. No plan to fix the nation can succeed without a united nation to follow it.