It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.
I was standing on a roof at Daisy when Barack Obama won his first presidency. There was a sense of pervasive hope in the air - a good man had won. More than that, a good black man had won in a country where racism was (and is) still prevalent. It seemed that the American dream - work hard, work together and you can achieve anything, even the presidency - was actually becoming reality. Complete strangers, even competitors, high-fived each other and let out whoops of joy. Life was good.
That was four years ago. The world's a starkly different place today. We have a global economic crisis, rising ethnic tensions and hot spots of conflict around the globe, growing hotter with each passing hour. Opportunities are scarce and good, capable people are struggling to keep roofs over their heads when they could be focusing their energies on solving some of our societal problems. I don't look forward with a sense of enthusiasm any more; there remains, however audaciously, a strand of hope.
The reason we have our economic, our ethnic, our legislative and our national challenges is easy to comprehend - people are refusing to work together, to find common ground, to put the well-being of the whole ahead of the well-being of the individual or the tribe. Partisanship rules the day, at the expense of policy. Those at the top aren't sharing; those at the bottom are giving up on the system and taking their frustrations to the streets. It's as true here in Canada as it is in the US - and it's certainly true in many other places in the world, too.
Obama first won on a cry of hope that the world responded to. In global polls, it was clear that he is the President the world wanted this time, too - not to make America weak, but to set a positive example of inclusive leadership that all can follow.
The challenge President Obama now faces isn't his alone - Congress, the Senate, partisans friends and partisan foes all must bury the hatchet and start working together. They must try to find common ground rather than undermine the positions of their foes. How Obama inspires that cooperation (or not) will define his second term and his legacy to the world.
It's a big challenge, one no single man or woman can overcome alone. Obama is right - we rise and fall as one people, not just Americans, but citizens of a global village. Let's rise to the challenges of today, together, and build a better world not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
Let's move forward together.