- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

If life were a Broadway play instead of the reality show we often make it, 2008 has enjoyed its final curtain call. The reviews are pouring in, and there are early signs of hope as well as hardship on the horizon.

An amazing time in politics, 2008 will go down in history as a groundbreaking year for the United States. No matter your politics, and even if you dislike politicians of every sort, this was an incredible 12 months.

It was a record-breaking year of vertigo-inspiring highs and nausea-inducing lows. It contained so many firsts - chief among them, the first African-American to win the presidency and the first woman to achieve a viable chance of winning her party’s nomination and the presidency - that to try to rank the best and rate the worst would take the whole of this column.

Through all the ups and downs, I look to my many friends from all across America, bearing every political stripe. They are the men and women, some of whom I only know through e-mails, who keep me grounded. Their observations and insights were invaluable. Neil, Bill, Mary, Connie, Malinda, Bruce, Josh, Jay, Jonah, Mark, Lisa, Dag, Hari, Anne, David, Chris, Charles, Minyon, Billy, Barbara, Diane and Priscilla helped me clarify my thoughts, called attention to things I couldn’t or didn’t see, encouraged me to be as forthright in print as I am in conversation, and even suggested topics for the column, most often wanting me to share the stories and sacrifices of working Americans I met in my extensive travels across the country in 2008.

Though I have only met a few of them in person, I call them the greatest blessing of all during this long presidential season. Unanimously and regardless their political affiliation, they all call Barack Obama’s victory the greatest blessing of the year. Indeed, almost every person I have spoken with since Election Day has found some joy in the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Everyone I know has hope.

Bill and Jackie, a couple from Missouri, recently wrote me that their hope is not that Mr. Obama will fix the economy for them but that he will give them a chance to do it themselves. I agree. We Americans are resilient and innovative. We are an inherently hopeful people, and all polls indicate Mr. Obama has already helped restore some hope to those who have lost their homes or jobs. In the troubled year that lies ahead, no doubt we will be drawing upon that faith, as well as our faith in ourselves, each other and, however defined, our higher power.

As the president-elect proclaimed on Election Night, “This is our moment. This is our time.” Mr. Obama was not referring to himself or the Democratic Party. He was beckoning every American to join him in putting the country back on the right track.

The worst thing about 2008 was the economy. There will be plenty of issues to spill over into 2009, but it is the economy that will continue to sap our resources and test our faith. We might as well get used to more government intervention and bailouts as the recession deepens. Unemployment will likely continue to rise, with more Americans caught in the undertow of the economic downturn. To keep us inspired, Mr. Obama will have to act quickly and decisively. Hope is a precious and all too often ephemeral commodity.

Mr. Obama is well-advised to sell the stimulus package to us right now. Its best-selling points will be jobs, extraordinary accountability and transparency and investments in long-term economic growth, especially in the energy and health-care sectors. Equally important is investment in education reforms that will prepare future generations to acquire the skills they need to compete in a global economy.

Unfortunately, our problems will not all be domestic in scope or urgency. Some of our worst moments of 2009 will come from abroad. Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Iran, and increasing terrorist activity in Africa - there’s no shortage of conflicts, and the United States can ill afford to ignore them. The world, too, awaits the new order.

With all that is going on and perhaps much more to come, I still see 2009 as being markedly better than 2008. This will be our season to hope again, to move forward as one people, to put shoulder to the wheel and help the new president with a recovery plan that will stimulate the economy and innovation.

There will be sacrifice, and the recovery will take time. There will be dark days in which hope and inspiration are scarce. There will be sweat, toil and more than a few tears. But if we start now to brace ourselves for the worst and determine to do our best, together we shall be as prepared as possible to help our neighbor, our co-workers, our extended families, our nation and our new president overcome every obstacle.

We the people are needed now more than ever. So as we pop our champagne and make our resolutions, let us also resolve to seize this, our moment, and make it our time to truly come to the aid of our country and fellow citizens.

Donna Brazile is a nationally syndicated columnist, a political commentator on CNN, ABC and National Public Radio and the former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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