03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thoughts on a New Decade

There is something very human, and certainly very American, about wanting to start anew. We are known throughout the world as incurable optimists, always believing things can be better. Long life gives plenty of reason and experience to question this belief. Certainly the wealthy and powerful among us always seem to come out better off regardless of their complicity in making things worse for most of us.

My life has been bracketed by the Kennedy brothers. John Kennedy inspired me and many of my generation into public service. He called it a noble profession. I was a junior attorney at the Department of Justice when Robert Kennedy was Attorney General and then worked in his 1968 presidential campaign. I served with Ted Kennedy in the Senate and spent most of those 12 years sitting next to him on the back row of the Democratic side. Now he is gone. And, after almost a complete half-century (stunning to imagine), that era is now over.

We hope, often against all hope, that Barack Obama will keep the torch of idealism alive, that he will find a way to overcome the resurgence forces of bitterness, of division, and of anger. To do so he will have to rise above conventional politics, even though all the insiders in Washington say otherwise. He will have to be bold and, against the lateral pull of traditional ideologies, propose imaginative new approaches in economics, foreign policy, and defense. Those new approaches are available, mostly outside of the Beltway, and he needs to reach out to find them, to break out of the prison of conventional politics.

Despite the tragic deaths of John and Robert Kennedy and Ted's sad but triumphant passing, hope still lives, idealism will not be crushed, the dream of a better America will not die. Those who share this sense continue our search for justice. We bear a flickering torch to dispel the darkness of cynicism. We know America can do better and we hope, against all hope, that the coming decade will light a new and better era.