Editor's note: The writer was the Democratic nominee for governor of New Hampshire in 1994. He is the publisher and editor of Heart of New Hampshire Magazine.
Ask around among those who have years and years of living within the Washington Beltway and breathing the air of power, and you'll hear most of them tell you the same thing about Barack Obama. "He needs to wait, get experience." "He's too young, too green too ... too ... too").
There's only one problem with all those observations. They fail to recognize that breathing the rarefied air of Washington also produces other symptoms -- among them, arrogance.
That arrogance, manifested in the view that those with years and years of experience know what is best for us, took a solid -- and well-deserved thumping -- last month. Those who had all the experience in the world got their comeuppance from an American public tired of the lies, the corruption and the arrogance.
What years of experience and so-called expertise have gotten us lately has been nothing but heartache. As a result, the next president of the United States will inherit an unnecessary, ill-conceived and unpopular war; a world, skeptical at best, that the United States can be an honest broker in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter; and, a country deeply divided politically.
The times call for someone different than the usual suspects.
The times call for a fresh face, untainted by scandal, and unpolluted by the winds of arrogance and corrupting power that blow through the Capitol. The times call for a leader who can call on all Americans to focus on what unites us, to take pride in ourselves and our country; and to play a role in restoring the moral leadership of this planet. That's a very tall order. We've seen the rest -- we need the best. And there is only one person who can do that -- Barack Obama.
Admittedly, I have not been so excited by a political leader since Bobby Kennedy. For many reasons, Obama seems to have the same electrical charge that Bobby had for me -- and millions of others, I might add. Here is a man unafraid to use the word "love" in a political speech; a man unwilling to pander to our fears; a man calling on us to dream again; and, most importantly, a man who sees the place of every citizen in the struggle to build a better world -- calling on us to step up and play our part.
I've never spoken to Sen. Obama, and I don't anticipate being among the masses who converge when he comes to New Hampshire today to celebrate the recent election victory of the Democrats. That's not because I don't want to see him, but because I'm not really willing to lend any credence to the notion that Democrats won the election. Don't get me wrong, I'm a reasonably loyal Democrat, though I've never voted a straight ticket. But let's face facts. The Democrats did not win the last election. The Republicans lost the last election. I've never been so proud of the American people as I was on the day after that election, but I suspect they would have voted for Francis the Talking Mule if he had been on the other side of the ticket. Democrats have a very small window of opportunity to prove that they deserve to govern -- both here and nationally. Obama seems to recognize this, and I hope he'll remind those gathered that it's time to govern and prove ourselves.
It was an unusual election, but these are unusual times. Our nation is in crisis, and we must have a leader who will help us turn this crisis into opportunity. We already squandered one such opportunity after 9/11. We can't afford to squander this one.
Sept. 11, 2001 presented an opportunity to unite the nation in ways that none of us could have dreamed possible the day before. Instead, it was used to further the cynical machinations of a cadre of neocons looking to reshape the world in their own image. The opportunity to point Americans toward their better angels was lost ... but perhaps not forever.
If there is one thing the Bush administration has proven quite well, it is that the crisis we face, from within and without, will not be made better with dogmatic arrogance and the thoughtless use of military power. Yes, of course, we must use our military might to protect our citizens. But more than anything else, the threats to our nation come in the form of a clash of cultures and ideas. This is a battle that will not be won by military might alone. It is a fight that calls each of us to reaffirm the values put forward by our founders: fiercely, protectively proudly. It is a struggle of ideas and ideals for the hearts and minds of the world.
This is where Barack Obama is head and shoulders above any of the other potential candidates -- on either side. This is where he is in a league all his own.
Listen to him speak and you feel the power of his intellect -- but just as strongly, you feel the power of his heart. This is a leader who will be able and inclined to reach out to the powerful and the disenfranchised. His guileless style and his heart has not yet been corrupted by the cesspool of Washington politics -- that's why we need him now.
As for experience, I have no doubt that he will surround himself with the best and the brightest when it comes to leading this nation. But surrounding yourself with the best and brightest only works when your own moral compass allows you to continue to steer the course that is best for the country. Barack Obama may be short on years, but he is long on heart, and with Americans hungering for leadership, that truly speaks to their hopes and dreams -- that is exactly what we need.
Sen. Obama, it may not be in your own interest to run. You may even wonder if you are ready ... that's a good thing. Our greatest leaders have always been those whose self-doubt tempered their impulses. What I am about to say is not for you, but for my beloved country. I want, more than I ever have in my life, to believe in the American dream again.
Run Obama, run.