President-elect Barack Obama's appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday struck a chord with me about how much more diverse — and inclusive — the upcoming administration may be.
"Part of what we want to do is to open up the White House and, and remind people this is, this is the people's house," Obama said. "There is an incredible bully pulpit to be used when it comes to, for example, education. Yes, we're going to have an education policy. Yes, we're going to be putting more money into school construction. But, ultimately, we want to talk about parents reading to their kids. We want to invite kids from local schools into the White House."
The people's house. Now there's a concept. I'm a firm believer in "believing it when I see it" but I can see this being a likely goal for Obama and family and staff.
I'm not done yet, though, because Obama had more to say, and if he can help me write my column, so much the better.
"When it comes to science, elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about," Obama continued.
He wants to do more with education than simply standardizing testing and punishing schools. If he elevates science, maybe companies and universities won't have to import scientists from other nations to make up for Americans having trouble finding Russia on a map, much less knowing the difference between H2O and H2SO4.
Obama said even more, promising to honor the diversity of our culture by "inviting jazz musicians and classical musicians and poetry readings in the White House so that, once again, we appreciate this incredible tapestry that's America ... [that] is going to be incredibly important, particularly because we're going through hard times. And, historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that, that sense that better days are ahead."
Some people will scoff at his talk of culture, arts, and education while our economy is in the midst of a deep recession and perhaps teeters on the brink of a full-fledged depression.
But Obama is taking care of that business, too: He has made key financial-policy appointments and named other key advisors, including Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. The man has already been doing presidential work for a few weeks now, and that's before taking the oath of office and starting to collect his $400,000-a-year salary.
It is important to me to see a president who looks like he will embrace openness, inclusiveness, and the expansion of our minds and hearts. He is no saint. He is no messiah. But we have survived eight years of a president whom many Americans would have loved to have a beer with, though he couldn't successfully run a company (much less a country). So I'm glad to see someone talking about embracing more than war and Wall Street.
I don't know what the next four years will bring. I don't know how much Obama can do in one term, or even two if he gets another one. But I do know we will soon have a president who can pronounce "nuclear" properly, who seems to have actually studied in college instead of earning a "gentleman's C," and who wants to see us do more than just consume and spend. He challenges us to hope, and to think, and that's the best start I can think of to getting ourselves out of the mess we're in.
Shay Stewart-Bouley can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.