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by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado In lieu of offering the usual new year resolutions for the political classes which they seldom keep, I thought I’d try a different approach this year. Herewith are some thoughts on hope and change, prominent themes in President-elect Barrack Obama’s successful campaign to win the privilege and responsibility of leading America through the four difficult years ahead. Since he was a little vague about exactly what he had in mind in the way of hope and change, I’ll presume to offer my own hoped-for changes. Most Americans believe that change is needed but differ over what the changes should be and how they should be accomplished. Hope alone is not enough. If we didn’t have hope that things would get better, then there wouldn’t be much motivation to go on. Americans are famously optimistic but that optimism has been sorely tried by events of the past year, specifically the collapse of the economy and credit markets and by widespread revelations of fraud and corruption in business and politics. So change is indeed needed and Mr. Obama has promised to deliver it. Will he, in fact, be an agent of change, a catalyst for revising the culture of business and politics as usual and lead us out of the darkness into the light? Rarely has an incoming president faced such daunting challenges. As harsh reality intruded upon his campaign rhetoric, Mr. Obama warned that he expected things to get worse before they got better. That does not come as welcome news to people who may have lost their jobs, their homes and most of their savings and who can be forgiven for wondering just how worse things can get. Americans do tend to attribute superhuman powers to leaders, especially the charismatic ones. But not every leader, however eloquent, can be a transformational leader and even if he is, transforming old, established institutions and methods takes time. Leaders cannot work miracles and Americans need to understand mortal limitations. Patience is needed. There is always the real danger of going too far with change and throwing out the good things with the bad. And there is much that is good about American government and business. For all of her current problems, America, her government and institutions are the envy of the world. So we should all resolve in the coming year to demonstrate more pride in our country and tone down the political confrontations that have deadlocked government in recent years. Energy spent on partisan politics can often be better spent in supporting our elected leaders. In this regard, those Republicans who are hoping that Mr. Obama performs poorly so that they can regain power in the next election have mostly their own best interests at heart, not their country’s. Politicians and all the rest of us need to learn to put ideology aside from time to time and attempt to see the merits of opposing arguments. No political philosophy or movement has all the answers. Politicians must accept the fact that they are in office to serve not themselves or the most vocal and affluent of their constituents but the entire community, city, county state or country that they represent. That goes as well for appointees. Revelations of corruption and fraud have angered Americans but we should reserve some of that anger for ourselves. We, after all, elected our leaders. Where was the due diligence? How many voters bothered to research the issues and the backgrounds of the candidates or, for that matter, even bothered to vote? As Mr. Obama navigates the difficult days ahead, he should recognize that most Americans are growing weary of paying for others’ mistakes, speculation, incompetence and greed. That applies to individuals who bought houses they couldn’t afford, investors who took crazy risks and businesses that are failing. These things are not the fault of the rest of the taxpayers. When Congress approved the $750B Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) the idea was to keep the financial system afloat and to free up credit again, not to bail out other failing industries like U.S automakers. The taxpayers now wonder which industry will be next to win a government transfusion. The financial industry and individual investors need to get back to the old-fashioned methods of making money by actually earning it, not through exotic investment schemes, manipulations and products that nobody really understands. If returns seem too good to be true, they are probably illegal or very risky. The year 2009 can indeed be a year of hope and change as long as we temper hope with reality and define change carefully. There is probably still much pain ahead and we must be patient because transformational change won’t come quickly or easily. CRO copyright 2008 J.F. Kelly, Jr. J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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