The Audacity of Hope, c. 2012

For those of us who supported President Obama, the last 24 hours or so have been positively giddy.

There were the nail-biting first few hours of the election results…followed by the glad tidings of more and more of the big electoral states turning a glorious blue…capped by the wonderful thrill of seeing the President stride out onto the stage in Chicago to give the most rousing acceptance speech most of us have ever heard.

What a big heart this man has, to include in his acceptance speech itself the invitation to his opponents to meet him in the aisle and try to seek common ground!

In the very first words of his speech, before he even thanked his running mate, he reached out to Mitt Romney, offering to work with him to move the country forward onto a better, firmer footing:

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. 

We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.

In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

And then, towards the end of the speech, he said so memorably:

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

This audacity of optimism is why we elected Barack Obama back in 2008, and why we continue to love him.

Whatever his personal or political failings, Barack Obama stands for the best hope of the USA: the raw immigrant passion and drive that founded this country and still makes it great.

He also represents, in his very skin, the polyglot future of the USA, the inexorable movement away from the European aristocracy of our founders to the broad multicultural diversity of our descendants.

Mitt Romney’s concession speech 2012

The Republicans are still stuck back in the good old days of the good old guys’ party.  As one commentator aptly noted, Republican political rallies look suspiciously like Ku Klux Klan rallies of the early 20th century.

For those who might rather not recall, let us remember that the Klan not only hated and lynched African Americans; they also hated and lynched Jews.  And they didn’t liked the Irish or the Italians much either!

Let’s not even talk about gay folk.  And women?  For the Klan and many contemporary conservatives, they belong in the kitchen or in the bed.

This is not the country we want to be as we move into the 21st century.

Although I thought the Obama campaign’s slogan “Forward, not back” was a little hokey when I heard it trotted out at various rallies, it does have the ring of truth to it.

We do not want to go back to the intolerance and violent hatred of our past.

We need to move forward, and we will need all hands on deck to confront the deeply unstable, uncertain future that awaits us in the age of climate change.

I want to see Barack Obama rise to the challenges of our time with all the power of his big heart.

I want to see him not just think about jobs, but think about green jobs, about jobs that will move our country forward into a longterm, sustainable future.

Enough kow-towing to Big Oil, Big Agriculture and Big Chemical.  It’s time to force these industries to bend to the winds of change, to adapt to the new paradigm of sustainability sweeping our country and our planet.

I applaud Bill McKibben for waiting until the election was over to come out swinging—and I applaud his continuing efforts to get the climate change issue into the center of political discourse.

Those who are still suffering from the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, along with their insurers, should be his best allies.

We need to face the truth that all the matters of social justice that concern us will be moot if we don’t face the pressing need to get our planetary civilization onto a sustainable footing.

We need to convince our President of this, post-haste.

But let’s take a moment to breathe a big sigh of relief that it is Barack Obama we’re dealing with, and not Mitt Romney!

This election proves that Big Money is not infallible.

Democracy still matters; individual votes still matter; as a country, we are not as corrupt as many of us feared.

Now is the time for all of us to embrace the President’s big heart and let it reach out even further to encompass our entire beautiful planet and all of her creatures.

This is the task we humans were born to undertake: to become the thoughtful, compassionate stewards of our planet, and the collaborative leaders of our own multifarious tribes.

It is so good to see more and more women stepping up to the plate now.  We are sorely needed, but we can’t do it alone.

Men and women of all heritages must work together as never before to reestablish the equilibrium needed to move our civilization forward sustainably into the 21st century.

These are not just words.  This is our urgent reality.

Barack Obama has answered the call.

Will you?

Leave a comment


  1. suzy

     /  November 7, 2012

    nicely put!
    shared on FB!

  2. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  November 7, 2012

    Thank you Suzy! Onward!

  3. Thank you Jenny for this further digestion of a momentous event. I wrote about it too here:

    I respect Bill McKibben and all he stands for. I can only hope that President Obama will seek his counsel in some form or something even better than that.

    So glad to read you tonight!
    xo Suzi

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  November 8, 2012

      Thanks for reading, Suzi! Nico voted for the first time in a Presidential election this year too…definitely momentous times in our on-going journey as parents–trying to raise GOOD MEN–

  4. I was inactive during the election campaign because I didn’t want to disturb the harmony on this blog with dissenting comments. Returning to this blog after the presidential elections I realize, that the positions are too far apart to allow a fruitful discussion. From my point of view this blog appears to be a case study about how an intelligent and educated woman is able to rationalize her continuing support for the political establishment. Before I retreat to my position as a quiet observer I only want to ask the following question:

    Which developments would not be acceptable for you and force you to cease support for the present federal administration or Democratic state administrations:

    Loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants?

    Extension of the operating life of existing nuclear reactors?

    Continuing offshore oil exploration and granting new leases, Alaska oil exploration?

    Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline?

    Continued support and approval of shale gas exploration and hydraulic franking?

    I don’t ask about Medicare and Social Security, I don’t ask about banking regulations and the Federal Reserve, I don’t ask about military spending and the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Congo, Mali, etc. because these issues are not themes of the blog.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  November 8, 2012

      I have been missing your sharp, perceptive comments, Mato, and hope you’ll keep them coming!

      Of course I am aware of all of these misdeeds of the Obama administration that you’re pointing to, and I don’t excuse him. But whereas you are seeing in black and white, I’m seeing in relative shades of gray. Relatively speaking, Obama is hugely better for the US and the planet than Mitt Romney and his fossil fuel/big capitalism/are there no workhouses masters. I am hugely relieved that the country sent Mitt and Karl Rove and the rest of them a solid NO WAY. Maybe they will actually take note and learn something about the reality of the world and the nation they live in.

      In the wake of this election I am hearing more calls for a third party to step up in the US, and maybe the time will be ripe now. There is tremendous disgust at the amount of money wasted in these contests. As the internet penetrates further and further into the populace, expensive TV campaigns are becoming less and less effective, while social media and blogs are growing in influence and may provide the opening for a viable third party movement.

      For me right now the most important question is, how much time do we have? In the US, generally, people go about their lives imagining stability–it’s all the vast majority alive today have known. But then there’s a Katrina, or a Sandy, or a drought, or a wildfire…and suddenly the ground shifts beneath our feet.

      Do we have enough time to build a Green Party movement in the US that could actually start making inroads into mainstream politics? Should those of us who support the Green Party agenda be starting now to build the base for 2016?

      Or should we instead be focusing on building local resilience, being prepared personally and on a community level for the inevitable shocks to come?

      This is what I will be thinking and writing about more in the days and weeks to come. Your insights will be much appreciated, Mato!

    • leavergirl

       /  November 8, 2012

      Thank goodness for Mato. I left this blog last night outraged. We are living in a country terribly divided. Huff Post reported (the most recent I could find) that Obama got 50.4% of the popular vote, while Romney got 48.1. Those numbers will be slightly adjusted, but you see the picture. We have a president who has no more support than roughly 50-51% of the population. Nearly half of Americans are pretty upset with the election results, and have not given the current president their mandate. In a situation like this, gloating would be poor form! And to hear more than gloating, to hear this… bluster about “his big heart” and how “we love him” — what, the progressives are pushing a cult of personality now?! For a man whose misdeeds are too numerous to count, too big to ignore?

      But that’s not bad enough. Here, Jennifer breathlessly reports how “we don’t want to go back to the intolerance and hatred of our past” while pushing the same with her pen. Stirring up hatred and intolerance of the left with her likening the Republican party to KKK. Repugnant. Ugly. Smearing her fellow citizens with the darkest paintbrush of the past.

      At a time when we Americans must come together to face unprecedented challenges, when we must either come together, red and blue and all the other shades, Jennifer has chosen her blog to divide us yet further, and the commenters here can’t wait to praise her for it. A fresh dose of despair for me this morning…

      • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

         /  November 8, 2012

        Yes, and coming together was precisely what Obama was calling for in his acceptance speech–did you happen to hear it, leavergirl? You may be right, I may have been out of line with the Klan analogy–it was not mine, actually, but I did call it “apt.” The Romney/Ryan Republicans frankly give me the shivers, as in, I am actively afraid of them, I believe them to be a true menace to society. Hence my relief and perhaps an over-the-top exuberance at their defeat.

        It is not that I don’t see Obama’s flaws. I just continue to believe that he is capable of more. I do believe he has a heart, and that he wants to do the right thing as President–as opposed to the cynical power-grabbing Republicans. He is very shrewd. He could not openly defy the fossil fuel industry without risking the billions it cost to put on the campaign. My hope is that the newly democratized media will come to reduce the influence of money and big business on our political system. Perhaps we are finally at the threshold of a time when a Green Party can take hold in the US. Or when the Democrats can be pushed and pulled greenward.

        There is also the open question of whether mainstream politics in any form is where we should be putting our energies now. Leavergirl, I believe you’ve said before that building resilient communities under the radar is what we should be doing now. My question today is whether one has to take a total survivalist approach to this (off the grid, in the backwoods, self-sufficient agriculture, etc) or if there is any point in trying to build resilience here in the urban/suburban environments where so many of us find ourselves. In the wake of Sandy, a lot more people are asking this question, so it’s a good time for those of us who have been pondering it a while to offer whatever pearls of wisdom we can muster. Me, I am still pondering…

      • leavergirl

         /  November 8, 2012

        May have been? MAY HAVE BEEN?! Don’t you realize that the system’s got you exactly where it wants you, fearing and vilifying the other side?! So they can keep up their “divide and rule” game? If you want to take it past the flat out hypocrisy of this post, then get out of your bubble, Jennifer, and go and talk to those Republicans, and ask them about what they believe and why, and build bridges. Obama’s not gonna get it done, he’s all about speechifying. But you and I, each one of us, we could. We could build those bridges one person at a time.

        This is not a game of chess. We are all in a boat together, and if we don’t learn to collaborate and hear each other and help each other, we’re gonna go down. You cheer for their defeat? You cheer for the boat going down. We need to find non-partisan solutions that serve us all!

      • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

         /  November 8, 2012

        Sorry, leavergirl, at the moment my heart is not as big as Obama’s. I don’t feel like reaching out to the Republicans. They need to reflect on their defeat and understand why their form of divisive partisanship–and racism, sexism, etc–is out of step with our times. At present, they are the folks who would leave 47% of the population (and then some!) off the life boats. So I’m not about to be the one ushering them on to mine.

      • leavergirl

         /  November 8, 2012

        Well, then. I am glad you cleared that one up. You are just as much about empty speechifying as Obama is, then. And a mirror image of the Republicans who spin scary tales to their own about the evil Democrats.

        Republicans are no more about the “leaving behind 47%” than Democrats are about killing civilians in other parts of the world via drones. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

      • leavergirl

         /  November 9, 2012

        After reflecting on this exchange, I want to say this, in a friendly tone. I have seen you so far as an ally.

        As one pilgrim on the path of transformation to another: it not good enough to mouth the words. We gotta live it!

        You speak change well, Jennifer. Now, be the change.

      • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

         /  November 9, 2012

        Duly noted, leavergirl. As usual, you’ve got me thinking. You are right, I shouldn’t tar all Republicans with the Romney/Ryan/Rove brush, and I can’t expect to make real change while leaving all those folks out of the picture. But I want to know how it is that so many Americans were duped into believing that this gang had their best interests at heart. Are people really that gullible to Fox News? Is our public education system really that bad? How to get through to these people and get them to think more progressively?

      • leavergirl

         /  November 9, 2012

        Seek commonalities, not conversion. People are generally pretty insulted by getting hit on by missionaries (of any persuasion). Hang out with them, learn their lingo, learn their values, earn their trust. Then when you come on more persuasively, they might listen… But make sure you are willing to listen too, and be as open minded as you hope them to be.

        P.S. You’ve been duped into believing the Obama gang has your best interests in heart! How could that happen? You are well educated, and aware… so baffling… oh I know, you were abducted and brainwashed by aliens. That’s the ticket! 😉

        A game of smoke and mirrors.

  5. Martin Lack

     /  November 8, 2012

    As I have said elsewhere, this was the best speech Obama has given since he was elected. Where has his speech writer been in the last 4 years?

    However, I am worried by his optimism; it suggests he is still deluded by fossil fuel lobby propaganda that we can have it both ways. The best is definitely not yet to come; and the sooner people like the President stop parroting such jingoistic and patriotic garbage the better it will be for all of us. It is time to put the rose-tinted spectacles out with the trash…

    Despite my sympathy towards socially conservative views on some subjects, I am delighted that Obama won this election. However, he really needs to wake up to the reality that there can be no compromise with the fossil fuel lobby: They must be made to change their business model; and find some way to make a profit that does not involve hastening the end of civilisation as we have known it…

    7000 years ago, humans invented agriculture. 250 years ago we invented industry. Now we must invent sustainability. If we do not, we will suffer the same fate as all other civilisations that did not appreciate the contingency of their own existence…

    Oh, and one more thing: Is it too much to hope that this will be the last US election on which such obscene amounts of money are spent (trying to influence the outcome) by a tiny fraction of 1% of the population…?

  6. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  November 8, 2012

    Yes, that is our task as US citizens right now: to prevail on our politicians to “wake up to the reality that there can be no compromise with the fossil fuel lobby: They must be made to change their business model; and find some way to make a profit that does not involve hastening the end of civilisation as we have known it…”

    I am glad to see that Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and Governor Christie of New Jersey, both climate change skeptics until now, have been rudely awakened by Sandy–both of these guys could be instrumental in waking more folks up in the higher echelons of power.

    Sometimes I feel like a small bird hopping around in front of a bulldozer, which takes not the slightest notice of my efforts to get its attention before it drives itself over a cliff….It would be good to have the alliance of bigger, fiercer creatures in this struggle. Bloomberg and Christie fit the bill.

    • Martin Lack

       /  November 8, 2012

      I think you are right about Bloomberg and Christie. Their endorsement of Obama-reality and repudiation of Romnesia-denial was I am sure an important factor in the POTUS election result. I note that NY has now been hit by another (formerly unusually-early) snow storm…

      And yet, we have nutjobs like Christopher Monckton continuing to deny reality – now adding Obama’s citizenship to climate change… Where will the stupidity end?

  7. Anna

     /  November 9, 2012

    Those of us who are worried about the environment are relieved Obama won the election. There’s certainly much to be concerned about on this front. Yet many Americans are unaware that half of the world’s honeybees have disappeared, or that the litmus test of rising acid levels in the oceans are a serious threat to our food chain and survival.

    The Union Of Concerned Scientists (UCS) gave President Obama a favorable report card. May he earn a long list of high marks from the science community over the next four years!


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