I'm very optimistic about Barack Obama's presidency. He has the raw ability - the first-rate intellect, strong emotional intelligence, confidence and good judgment - to be a truly great president, one who comes into office with serious potential and lives up to it by continuing to grow.
It remains to be seen.
I'm reminded of Daniel Goleman's comment in "Emotional Intelligence," that the hardest challenge in childhood, the biggest test of the child's emotional intelligence, is "breaking into a new, already-formed playgroup."
As we speak, Obama is busily reshaping his new play group. Kicking some out he doesn't like, bringing in some he does. In this and other decisions, he will begin to disappoint, renege on promises, and shift his position on certain issues, because in order to get something accomplished, he needs to build a bigger support base.
Now lets consider his judgment in choosing schooling for the girls, played up by the media (as Ryan says) as a major transitional challenge. Would it be Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Day?
or public school?
A sop is thrown to us in The Huffington Post: "Michelle Obama went to public schools on Chicago's South Side, and understands the importance of strong public schools, Lelyveld said, and the administration plans to work hard on that."
Somehow I'm not impressed.
Well the Obama dilemma is somewhat different from the family I know where they, too, have an important "transitional decision" to make. The father was recently diagnosed with cancer, and they must decide whether the father gets the mri for his tumor once every 3 mos. as recommended, or once every 6 mos., which would enable them to keep their children out of the wretched local public school system and in ttheir private school. Since of course, as we all know, insurance doesn't cover "diagnostic tests." ("and the administration plans to work hard on that"?)
An example of the wretched public education in this family's town, which I recently visited? I stood at the checkout line at the WalGreens, which was right in front of the entrance doors on a night when it was 20 degrees, shivered as it opened and closed, and said to the adolescent checkout clerk, "You must be freezing."Another example of the current state of our public education.
Her reply: "No. It depends on the day. Like tomorrow it might be hot."
Went to an information site to look up the meaning of the word "Hallelujah." We went quickly from the obligatory Greek/Latin thing, and a quick look at Catholicism where, it said, Alleluia was the preferred spelling, to a discussion of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Then Bon Jovi's. Then Lang's. I kept reading, becoming more and more curious as to when they would say it. IT. Curiosity turned to incredulity.Well, Mr. Obama is now ousting the old playground crowd and forming his own, new play group. We observe with interest.
They never did.
A comment from a site visitor said, with great restraint, "And while you're at it, you might mention The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. If you know what that is."
And like Mr. Ryan I sure hope the Sidwell Friends and the rest of life at the White House don't move him too much out of reality. Emails circulate as to whether he's "really" Black, and other nonsense. On the streets, the questions are more practical, and more pertinent:
- where to find affordable housing;
- how to get a job
- how to get a second job
- how to cut back when you're already at the line;
- how to pay for gas to get to a job if you're lucky enough to have one;
- which to sacrifice, medical care or heat;
- whether to pay for jackets or meat;
- what to do when you're 70 and you just lost 3/4s of your IRA; and,
- where to put your mother-in-law who isn't moving in because it would be helpful and also kitchy to be on the D. C. scene, and have an entire suite to herself avec staff, but is moving in because she is destitute, and you need her social security money, so you'll make room for one more person in your highly-mortgaged 2 BR 2 bath house (maybe on of the teenagers can use the LR for a bedroom?), and pray they don't cut her social security payments.
Oh come on. You knew he would. Wouldn't you if you had the choice?
The important thing to keep in mind is 99% of the people in the U. S. do not have that choice.