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The Audacity Of Hope

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As President-elect Barack Obama forms his cabinet and begins addressing the many challenges facing our country while translating his campaign words into actions, let us hope that the "Yes, we can!" spirit of his campaign does not falter. Let us hope that he continues to inspire the American people to forgo divisiveness and to instead unite to make the country better for all. May the president-elect seek out wise counsel that puts improving the condition of people and cooperation ahead of ideology and political parties.

Our country has suffered through a period in history where the forgotten seemed to become more forgotten. Quality universal education and health care took a back seat to fighting a war that costs billions per month, a housing boom became a bust and millions are suffering in the loss of their homes and their jobs. People now look toward the government to renew its focus on the needs of the people by strengthening the middle class, improving the number of jobs and enhancing economic security.

We can learn a lot from the words of another Chicagoan, Daniel Burnham, who urged people to make "no little plans" and "aim high in work and hope." We celebrate next year the 100th anniversary of his plan for Chicago and can take fresh inspiration from his ability raise the spirit of the community by changing narrow roads into boulevards, improving public transportation, establishing a park system along Lake Michigan, and creating public buildings that would give people pride in the city. In this spirit, the new president should continue to encourage people to not only dream but to believe that they can become more, not just through government help, but through everyone's dedicated efforts.

Therefore, the nation needs to be encouraged to join volunteer efforts to save the environment, support education and mentoring, improve communities, feed the hungry and provide assistance to the elderly. The audacity of hope is a spirit. It's not something that comes from Washington, but comes from the heart. The outcome of this election shows that many of us want to believe in a better America for all -- that we can be better than we are not just through government programs but through a renewed commitment to treating our neighbors as we ourselves would like to be treated. This will happen if we start recognizing that each person has value. Start living in a spirit of cooperation rather than demonizing those with different points of view.

This election has not only opened the door on a new future, but has also shown us how far we have come. Only four decades ago African-Americans were subjected to using separate drinking fountains, waiting rooms and train and bus sections as dictated by Jim Crow laws in the south, as well as degradations involving unequal housing, education and job opportunities in the north. The United States has moved to overcome many of these discriminatory roadblocks and that says something about the spirit of the people of this great land and how we can, and will, overcome the challenges we face today.

In Obama's speech on election night, we heard many times "Yes we can." Yes, we can meet the challenges if we focus on the "we" and start today, to make this country better -- if we all sacrifice, if we all care, if we work together. We are on the verge of an exciting period in the history of our country. The challenges look endless, but so are the possibilities if we realize that we all have a stake in making this country better, and if we start today to make it happen.


Kenneth R. Thompson is Professor of Management at DePaul University and consults as a personal leader coach