January 20, 2009

One Thousand Four Hundred Sixty One Days

Today was a big deal. While much of the tech blogosphere has covered, in full, Barack Obama's inauguration through the eyes of how technology played a role, from CNN integrating Facebook in its site, to different streaming services, including Ustream, the biggest developments will of course have very little to do with how quickly data moved across the network, or how quickly you got the news and distributed it. History isn't likely to look back on January 20, 2009, and mention the changes at whitehouse.gov, including the addition of a blog and RSS. That's all very cool, but it will all pale in comparison if the next one thousand four hundred and sixty one days don't roll out quite so smoothly - and there is a ton of work to do.

While I was on a conference call this morning when Barack Obama took the oath of office, I have since come home and watch the proceedings on television, thanks to TiVo. While I wasn't a starry-eyed Obamamaniac, there's no question I am glad he won. Without recapping the last eight years, it's clear there is a ton of cleaning up to do. And just thinking about where to start is daunting.

One can practically wax reminiscent over the time with foolish social issues were what occupied our thoughts when it came to the presidency, or what party to support. Gone are the times when you would wonder about who tossed their Medals of Freedom, or who inhaled, or whether somebody was a "wimp".

Instead, as we all know, Obama has started his first day as commander in chief with an incredible to do list. He is faced with a practically unprecedented situation, flanked by economic and social struggles domestically, and strife internationally. And while people from all parties know things have to get better, there is absolutely no sure answer. There are parts of this world, and large groups of people who hate who we are - not just because of the actions of the last administration, but due to differences that are possibly borne from centuries of frustration and resentment. Compounded with the aggressive tone of conflict that has been our foreign policy of late, and the anger is undoubtedly stirred.

What Obama has done to achieve his position as the President of the United States is incredible - and something I did not foresee coming. When I first talked on this blog about the 2008 election, I barely mentioned his name, talking instead about Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and potentially, Al Gore. But through an extremely coordinated campaign, and messages that struck home with many Americans, he led early in the primary campaign against Clinton, and never turned back. And while I voted for Hillary in the primary, I certainly was not voting against Obama - and as I'd once said about Hillary, the more I eventually learned about Obama, the more I grew to like him. Voting in November, for me, was very easy.

But even amidst the excitement, and the high hopes, I worry.

I worry not because of his potential, or his capabilities, or his record. I think he is very skilled. But I worry due to expectations and the short attention span of the American people who do not often have patience when it comes to policy. There will be no quick fix to our economic struggles. There is no clear end in sight for the Middle East struggles that have gone on as long as records have been kept. And you can't just hit "Control-Z" and undo many of the things that cemented people's opinions against the Bush administration. You can't just look at Guantanamo, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan and see the process unfolding smoothly, no matter your partisanship. And as has always been the case, simple "hope" and expectation of "change" will not be enough. It will take a ton of work. It will take patience, sacrifice, and cooperation, often between people who don't happen to like each other very much.

Over the next one thousand, four hundred and sixty one days, there will be scandals, both real and artificial. There will be surprises. There will be excitement and frustrations. There will be great speeches and boring ones. And if you think about it, theoretically, Obama and his team would have to royally screw things up to not have the American people say, in November 2012, that they will be better off than they are today, giving them a running start at reelection already. But anyone who thinks this is going to be a piece of cake is kidding themselves. Even as Obama spoke today, and gave a speech many are fawning over, the stock market fell. Even as many cheered in Washington DC, others were notified they were losing their jobs. And the wars around the world didn't take a time out.

This will be a very long process. I'm hopeful. I'm relieved that this first part of change has taken place. But this will be a long journey we will all be watching and be part of, as we experience the start of something very new. The whole world is watching.