It is a time-honored fable in America. A young man overcomes a difficult upbringing and rises to the top of his profession, hailed by the nation and the world.
Only this time, the fable is real, and the young man is poised to become the leader of the free world today.
Just five years ago, Barack Obama was a senator in the Illinois State House. Four years ago, he was being sworn in as the junior senator from Illinois in the U.S. Senate.
Raised in Hawaii and also in Indonesia as the son of a white mother and black father, Obama eventually went to Columbia University and finally to Harvard Law School, becoming president of the Harvard Law Review.
Today, the hope of a nation and a future is placed into his 46-year-old hands. He has become the embodiment of the dreams and hopes of millions already — he was the first person of African-American descent to become the presidential nominee of a major American political party.
His political mettle was tested by a handful of contenders for the Democratic nomination, including the erstwhile heavy favorite, whom he has since tapped to be his Secretary of State. He captured 28 of the 50 states — collecting a 2-to-1 margin in electoral votes — and 52.6 percent of the popular vote in an unprecedented turnout to defeat a war hero for the White House.
As he takes office today, President Obama faces a litany of challenges — a wobbly economy, a flare up of hostilities in the Middle East and a two-front war for a heavily-taxed military.
During his campaign, President Obama promised to mend fences among the American people. While some of his Cabinet choices have faced some serious questions, he also has displayed a knack for soothing some of the rough waters. He elected to keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense while the nation is trying to scale back involvement in one conflict (Iraq) and find ways to continue to take the fight to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
President Obama walks into the Oval Office today, not as a guest but as its occupant, likely setting up pictures of his wife and children on the desk, with the thought that he cannot fail — because if he does, then so does the nation and perhaps the free world as well.
It is an enormous task. We hope he can meet the difficulties ahead and steer the nation to a new era of peace and prosperity.