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Of Hope and Pathos: The Failure of National Leadership


Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Nov 06, 2009

Being the week for year-back reflections on the election of Barack Obama, one is hard-pressed to find or feel the euphoric spirit of the nation and the global community that beautiful evening when the new President took the stage in Grant Park. Welcome promises have dissipated. Harsh realities have set in. And the new President has lost his tarnish.

Americans have an innate and insatiable appetite for quick fixes, are inherently pragmatic, and restlessly seek solutions to rectify every problem or ill. Therein lies THE problem—there are no quick fixes to the challenges before us. This is not an excuse for this President who seems, indeed, to have lost focus, resolution, and the capacity to deliver on promises made during his campaign. He is fundamentally and finally responsible, and can no longer cloak his administration in the waywardness of his predecessor and the economic and political disaster he left behind.

What is lost in the whirl of this hand-wringing, roller coaster ride of hope and pathos, however, is the dramatic and utterly unconscionable failure of Congressional leadership to engage and competently address the nation’s challenges. Democratic leaders have no backbone. Republican leaders are hard-wired to bring down the President. Add the barons of Wall Street into the mix—fixed on themselves and their bonuses—and we have a wayward country looking for safe haven to be found only by charting a new course to democratic community.

Such a new course will not be charted by the political parties and their so-called leaders as they now stand. The parties themselves continue to be at war within. Moral leadership within the framework of the parties is a contradiction in terms; the battles that most concern those on all sides are the next elections.

Barack Obama ignited the possibility of hope. He needs to rekindle that fire of passion and possibility, stand up to the forces of destruction, to the lame leadership of his own party, and to Republicans who seek to thwart him at every turn. Our patience is running thin. It is running out. Time to be President, Mr. Obama. Time to take the control we gave you. Time to make audacious hope a reality.

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