As “hope” was the campaign poster and theme of Barack Obama, and as “Yes, we can” was its corollary, I want to express some “hopes” that I hope the Obama presidency can and will do.First of all, I hope that this presidency will be the first in 28 years to seriously, comprehensively, and proactively address the needs of the very poor. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew, XXV: 1-2). It is all well and good to bail out CEOs and major banks, but I hope we will now give serious thought to eliminating homelessness, to rebuilding inner cities and making skid rows a shameful memory rather than an obscene daily presence. How about genuine health care for everyone with new hospitals located in areas of dire need?Secondly, I hope this administration goes beyond the usual self-congratulatory rhetoric about education and actually funds real and meaningful change. Leave No Child Behind is by now an insulting phrase and memory, for during the Bush years – and during the Clinton, Bush senior, and Reagan years as well – the federal government did not do nearly enough to ameliorate the disgraceful conditions in low- income neighborhoods and schools. President Obama has said he wants to create 20 new Harlem Zones (modeled after Geoffrey Canada’s success in New York) across the country. I hope that he immediately sets these 20 projects into effective motion, and then 20 more and 20 more and 20 more. It will not happen without federal funding. State education budgets are tapped out. So either we pay for change, or we just talk about how nice it might be.Thirdly, I hope our nation sets about rebuilding its reputation around the world by putting trillions of dollars into bringing health, education, and welfare to nations whose grinding poverty and vicious abuses of human rights are beyond comprehension. We have poured billions, if not trillions (according to Joseph Steglitz), into waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine if we had spent the same amount on alleviating malnutrition (20,000-30,000 children die every day on this planet), helping dirt-poor nations build schools, clinics, roads, and providing them with job-training programs and cultural exchanges. Imagine!How high are my hopes that each of these three projects will happen? Relatively high! Even though the economy is in the tank and sheer disregard for the poor and for inner-city conditions is profound and ingrained, nevertheless we have a president who is enlightened, intelligent, and dynamic. Perhaps we have reached that moment when, as Seamus Heaney wrote, History says, Don’t hope…But then once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal waveOf justice can rise upAnd hope and history rhyme…
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