11/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Unique and Thoughtful Man

Americans chose change in 2008, picking a president who seemed to represent a profound shift from his predecessor in style, ideals, outlook and agenda.

On Wednesday night, Barack Obama gives new voice to what that means as he addresses Congress at a critical juncture in his young presidency.

So often in our history voters have looked for a new president who is as different as possible from the one who had disappointed us.

In Obama, voters followed a unique and thoughtful man who displays the promise to be one of our best. It will take time to know if he can fulfill the promise and match his stirring words with deeds. Will he show the audacity to deliver his hope?

As with John F. Kennedy, the world looks at Obama and sees a new America, one that looks more like the rest of the world.

Propelled to office by a surge of optimistic new voters and young people, Obama widened the universe of citizens who want to get involved in civic affairs.

Obama has the chance to bring about a new spirit for the country, as Kennedy did. His campaign attracted supporters who had never before been active in politics. They learned that being an American is about taking part, that the genius of our nation and the gift of our best presidents is the preservation of a simple ideal: We run our own country.

Tomorrow night, Obama must choose. Will he lead his band of newbies to a better country, or more of the same?

Craig blogs daily on CQ Politics.