Some of the best moments of the entire election came late Tuesday night when a disappointed John McCain delivered the classiest concession speech I've ever heard and a jubilant Barack Obama promised to be the president not only to those who had supported his bid but also to those who had not.
One in victory, the other in defeat, both of them saying what I believe this country really needs to hear. After the meanest and most drawn-out campaign I remember, it just felt good to see these two men — presumably among the best this country has to offer — behave like statesmen.
Their words were conciliatory and measured, hopeful and respectful. For the first time in a long time I feel the tone has been set for a real and large-scale effort to put the divisiveness of partisan politics behind us. I'm hoping all the sniping really will be replaced on both sides of the political aisle by people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and fix what's broken instead of carping endlessly about how the other team is to blame.
I have quite the wish list for the president-elect.
I would love to see a president give Cabinet-level positions not to cronies, but to experts in the areas they'll oversee. Wouldn't it be amazing if a new president had his aides really look into a department in search of the best and brightest experts within it, then elevated one of those folks to a leadership role?
Wouldn't it be great to hear Republicans and Democrats in Congress tell each other, "I know you love this country as much as I do, although we see things somewhat differently. I really want America to get back on firm financial footing more than I want to shore up my personal chance of re-election. My plan for the coming months is to stop being partisan and start being simply American. I will work with you wholeheartedly to find ways to bring jobs back home and develop alternative fuels and fix this economic mess. We won't always agree, but I'll try to at least consider what you're saying, too."
In the spirit of all this wishful thinking, I've decided there are things I should be doing, as well. I'm going to stop bellyaching so much although it is actually one of my talents. When it comes to politics, I have become Eeyore, thoroughly pessimistic. I have come to believe that the people who would make the best world leaders are too smart to want the job. I tend to view with cynicism those who crave that power.
As for Congress, I've been disillusioned by a lack of meaningful term limits and ethics reform, infuriated every time Congress gave itself a pay raise while I was struggling financially or exempted itself from the rules it said the rest of us must live by. That it took the time to add earmarks to an emergency bailout package sort of speaks for itself, doesn't it?
I've pined to hear someone say, "We blew this, but we can fix it," instead of listing reasons why everything's always the fault of the opposing party. I have become a two-party agnostic, unwilling to claim either one.
I was raised, journalistically, on the tenet that you get both sides of the story and let an informed public decide. Recently, a lot of people seem to have decided that they don't really want to hear from anyone who doesn't parrot their own opinions. I find that disheartening.
Today, though, I'm going to allow myself to feel a little optimistic, to act as if there really is a fresh start under way and I can be part of it. There's a theory that if you act like things are the way you want them to be, they become that way. I'm willing to dive in and give it a try.
Care to join me?
Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org