On Tuesday night when Barack Obama was declared the winner, I was reminded of the toast my father gave at our wedding reception when I got remarried ten years ago. Quoting Samuel Johnson, he said, "A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience."
With Obama as our president-elect, the country is, in essence, about to enter into its 44th marriage. And I was filled with optimism the likes of which I've never felt for a U.S. politician as I listened to Obama's eloquent acceptance speech. But I also marvel at my sense of buoyancy, because what president in modern memory hasn't pledged greater unity -- and has subsequently failed to deliver on his promise? With each new election, politics in Washington and the divisions in the country as a whole have only grown more rancorous. And still, we keep believing that this time we've got it right.
In concluding his toast, my father quoted Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who, as the officiant at a friend's wedding, cautioned, "A wedding is an event; a marriage is an achievement."
I actually believe that Obama will wake up each day and try to do what's best for the country, and I desperately hope that he succeeds. We are a nation that needs healing. But I'm a little wary of the way that reporters and pundits have been gushing over him for the past couple of days. As a friend who's not a journalist said to me last night, it's this same blind acceptance of a president that led us into Iraq without asking the right questions and caused us to believe in Alan Greenspan as the oracle of our time.
Election Day is an event. Governing a country beset by troubles is an achievement.