When more than 35,000 citizens gathered in Baltimore’s bitterly cold War Memorial Plaza and 1.5 million in front of our Capitol, it was not to clamor for change but to embrace it.
The calm ebullience of both gatherings, the effective security, crowd flow, traffic control and quick cleanup more than any words spoken made it seem as if all things are possible.
Just about all things had better be, because our new president must come through not just for our nation, but for our species.
President Obama should chat soon with Gen. James E. Cartwright, his Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman, who told a Baltimore gathering recently that financial crises, climate change plus weapons of mass destruction readily available to rogue states and lunatic groups put humanity “at a tipping point.”
“Competition [for scarce world resources] inevitably will lead to conflict,” Cartwright said. “Will we have control? No.”
That’s a Marine talking, Mr. President.
He also might want to check with the ousted head of NASA, Aberdeen native Michael Griffin, who recently told another Baltimore gathering that America has squandered “60 years of unchallenged benefit” since World War II.
They may disagree on details of space policy, but that makes Griffin the perfect person to tell our a president what he really thinks.
Obama also should take a look at Government Accountability Office audits showing billions spent on expanding biohazard laboratories in the name of security actually increases the risk of pandemic.
Add that to 74 million fat, sedentary, spoiled baby boomers — exposed for the first time in our history to a wide array of organic compounds, pathogens and radioactive isotopes — now heading for old age and a dysfunctional health care system, and you get a weight big enough to take the world economy down.
Offering vague uplifting messages of hope is fine, but know that the crisis is immediate. We need hard, precise solutions.
Do we need economic stimulus? Like an alcoholic needs another drink.
Do we need bigger government? About as much as our obese poor need more food.
Do we need increased regulation of our crony capitalist economic system? Sure, the way the gullible need introductions to con men.
What we do need first to solve our other problems is Obama’s promise of government “honesty, transparency and accountability ... in the letter and spirit of the law.”
In Baltimore he cited our founding “documents that were imperfect but had within them, like our nation itself, the capacity to be made more perfect.”
He said here “our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not.”
Certainly the gathering in Baltimore hearkens back to Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 departure from Springfield, Ill., on the same route toward his inauguration and destiny.
According to a newspaper account: “A subdued and respectful demeanor characterized the vast assemblage. All seemed to feel that they were about to witness an event which, in its relations to the future, was of no ordinary interest.”
That was the aura in Baltimore, of an historic moment, person and destiny.
The president-elect spoke of “challenges so vast” we face as a nation.
He should expand his view and be the first world leader to proclaim them challenges for all humankind, the only beings capable of rapid, conscious change.
Let the world behold us. Our election of Barack Hussein Obama proves that fact.
And let the world follow. For, as Obama said in Baltimore, “the set of ideals that continue to light the world” make all things possible.
Frank Keegan is editor of The Baltimore Examiner.