President Obama’s second-term inauguration has come and gone. Even though I didn’t vote for him, he’s still the president of my country. He represents all Americans, including me.
Last month, my friend Amy wrote about picking a theme word for her life in 2013. Her post inspired me to think of a theme word for my hopes for President Obama’s second term. The word I chose is peace. If President Obama can usher peace into America’s contentious political environment, he’ll secure his legacy along with a place in the hearts of many Americans—maybe even those like me who didn’t vote for him.
We can argue, liberals and conservatives, about whose behavior is worse. Each side blames the other for gridlock. Mud slings year round, not just during election season. From where we regular folks sit, Washington looks like a bad episode of 90210. Vindictive. Scandalous. Popular people posing for the cameras one minute and stabbing each other in the back the next. Meanwhile, constituents wait for them to do their jobs at the Peach Pit. A ridiculous and imperfect analogy, I know, but you get the idea.
How could President Obama or anyone possibly be expected to instill peace in the midst of infighting like this? He can’t do it alone. None of us can. But as the leader, he’s in the best position to change the tone.
Conservatives like me must own our part of the conflict. Our disagreement with President Obama’s policies, actions, and words often translate as personal attacks on him, much the way liberals’ criticism of former President George W. Bush did. I want to be more careful to clearly debate differences in belief, and I hope other conservatives and liberals will do so going forward. I also want to remember to pray for President Obama as our leader, and I hope other people of faith will, too.
Peace as a top-down change is powerful. I challenge President Obama to be the first to attempt reconciliation and bipartisan compromise. I don’t expect either side to cave on the values of those they represent. But if a solution simply cannot be reached, I hope President Obama will encourage Congress to dig deeper to come up with another option. Rather than rushing to an ill-conceived decision or executive order, go back to the drawing board and do better.
Peace in speech and countenance is healing. I challenge President Obama to visibly demonstrate willingness to work with others who believe differently than he does. Religious freedom is an issue close to my heart. I hope President Obama will deal peacefully with those whose faith beliefs are different from his and not use policy to force citizens to act against their faith or support actions they find morally reprehensible like unrestricted abortion on demand. There is room for mutual respect. We can protect the religious liberty of all Americans including Christians.
Peace can make a good leader great and create a legacy worth remembering. If he leads with peace, President Obama has a unique opportunity for greatness in his second term. By extending the olive branch in our broken country, he can transcend divisiveness and revive the civil discourse that may actually lead to solutions to the problems we face.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 NIV
All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance, by John Lennon.
What are your hopes for Obama’s second term?