Hope Is More Than A Feeling- It's the Start Of Everything; Meeting President Obama
The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup and were readying to make the traditional visit to the White House. I was the Chairman of the Board for the nonprofit, Dreams for Kids and as a part of the Blackhawks Charities, was invited to make that trip as well and meet President Obama and First Lady, Michelle.
I am a policy and social justice junkie, but I had only been to the White House, once before- as a "tourist." This time it was personal and emotional for me. It wasn't the Blackhawk win, although the Championship run was amazing. It wasn't even the success or pride I felt, working with the Dreams for Kids organization… it was meeting the President. A President I had been waiting for, the President who revived my hope in an America Dream for everyone. The America that could strongly reunite as one people- away from the destructive economic policies that separated us in the first place. An America that believed in everyone's value and supported everyone's dream- even if it meant giving a little bit more so that all Americans could succeed.
After the 2000 election, I was disillusioned as I watched the controversial Supreme Court ruling and over the course of the next eight years, I had been part of a neo-conservative history in which the average citizen had no control. We watched our Country- and the world watched us- as we went to war on false premises-and continued with torture and the neglect of American ideals. A war which was costly to our integrity and more importantly to our youth and financial stability. The assertion of executive powers, the politicization of the Department of Justice, allowing investment banks to go unregulated, FEMA's failures in a time of climate science realities, energy policies which deeply hit our pockets and contained no forward thinking, skyrocketing deficits, job creation of less than 1%, 40% decrease in the S&P, and millions of Americans who lost their savings, their homes and their hope. The "American Way" had become about wealth and power and "me"- and I was longing for the America of "we".
The 2008 election was a time of hope, but it was also a time of reality for me- we had fallen far, both economically and in respect, and it was going to take a strong administration to clean up the mess, get us back on track and plan for our future. The Obama administration inherited a broken government which took years to create and would take us years to recover. Present day America had become the land of the quick fixes, instant gratification and ignoring our past. It took us over 12 years to recover from the Great Depression- and it would take us more than 2 years to recover from this- but impatience grew and partisan politics became a very painful reality in the mid-term elections of 2010. Another force of change had entered the American political landscape and the "hope" for real change was challenged yet again. As William Galston said, "Obama in fact had not one but two agendas—the agenda of choice on which he had run for president and the agenda of necessity that the economic and financial collapse had forced upon him." He tried to do both- which was a double edged sword for all of us; we wanted so much.
As I stood at the White House, in March of 2011- shaking the President's hand, I thanked him for his dedication to the American people. He was my choice for change; he was my choice for the future- one of equal education, equal opportunity, social justice and protection, forward thinking on energy, manufacturing, innovation, infrastructure, the economy and jobs.
Those first two years were difficult and the mid-terms were even worse. Policy accomplishments were many, but political roadblocks were crushing. Through it all, he started the wheels of change. In fact, he was one of the most active Presidents in US history. "This president has delivered more sweeping, progressive change in 20 months than the previous two Democratic administrations did in 12 years." – Tim Dickinson
Those first two tears tackled key issues of importance: The Wall Street Reform Bill, The Housing Rescue Plan, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (which consisted of tax cuts for working-class families; state funds for infrastructure projects; and state funds to prevent the layoff of police officers, teachers and other needed roles), Lily Ledbetter, Credit Card Reform, Clean Energy, Affordable Care Act, Repealing DADT, Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Ending Combat Ops in Iraq, Reforming Student Lending and hundreds, yes- hundreds of other initiatives to better America.
If you look at any of the reports from the first 24 months in office- there are success reports and failure reports, but what's most striking for me- is the generational gap. "The generation gap that surfaced in the 2008 election persists two years later," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Most people who are 50 or older say that Obama has been a failure in office; a plurality of younger Americans think his administration has been a success."
Just over two years ago I stood in Grant Park and witnessed history. Now at the White House, I am shaking the hand of the future. My children and your children are the future. Our investment in their future is the most important thing we can do for them. This includes education, equality, innovation, infrastructure, energy, the environment, financial protections and social justice-
Our history, both good and bad has brought us here, but now it's time to think…forward and to move… forward, together. Hope is more than a feeling; it's the start of everything.