Steve Kostyo and Jessica Gephart

The swearing in of President-elect Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States marks a move from a secretive and closed government filled with preferential treatment for the wealthy to an open and transparent government filled with opportunities for the citizens of this country. It is a historic event in every sense of the word. The presence of serious world conflicts in the Middle East, economic turmoil and a troubled environment has proved to guarantee a lasting legacy for this generation. While the outcomes are yet to be determined, for now Americans can be proud that they have further perfected the union that was promised to them more than two centuries ago by electing the first black president.

The presidency of George W. Bush will ultimately be judged by future generations. However, it is clear that within the past eight years this country has experienced some tragic events, including the Iraq war and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Given that some disasters, such as September 11 and Katrina, are not the fault of the administration, their effects seem to have been exacerbated by poor executive decisions. These decisions, such as allowing for the mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib have tainted the United States’ international image. In a historic fashion, the American people have chosen to change this image in political and literal terms. An administration which has been stricken with resignations and scandals may not be the fault of any one person, but one thing is for sure: this country needs a change of course.

Creating a new image for America may be one of the most important objectives of Obama’s presidency. It is hard to say we have made very many friends in the past eight years, especially in Iraq where shoes are being thrown in our faces. A return to international cooperation is essential in a world as interconnected as our own. Although there may be fewer who would want to have a beer with President Obama, more may be willing to talk diplomacy and peace. This cooperation cannot be stressed enough because without it the world’s environmental challenges cannot be overcome. Our image is not only important to restore abroad but also at home. With Bush’s dismal approval rating it will not be hard for Obama to gain more support. In addition, it appears that his embodiment of the American we all aspire to lead us can only make us more confident in his abilities. He is a man with a well-developed intellect which was achieved through a struggle well known by many Americans. Obama is also a family man with charisma and charm. These qualities mean that there is hope in the air and the promise of a better tomorrow.

Obama stands to steer the United States back to where the American dream can be attained. To help him on this journey he has surrounded himself with the nation’s greatest political and economic minds. From Joe Biden to Larry Summers, Obama is making sure that he does not leave the future of the United States to chance. The genius of Obama’s appointments can be seen by his scrutinizing attention to detail that has culminated into a list of elite political officials respected on both sides of the aisle. Some have even compared his appointments to the “Team of Rivals” Lincoln put together, and we can only hope that this group of individuals is equally successful in bringing our nation back together.

In the transition period between his nomination and inauguration, Obama has proved to continue to glue the nation together with bipartisan efforts. Knowing that economic downturns require immediate action, Obama has sacrificed some of his goals to ensure a quick relief package, where the most obvious example has been the addition of a conservatively-approved tax relief stimulus package. The President-elect has even named Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as two of his right-hand men, as foreign policy advisers to his transition team. Actions such as these prove that Obama is putting principles over all else and ensuring efficiency in a system built for anything but.

Our future will now be shaped by a belief in creating a country where terrorism is not an excuse for the infringement of human rights, but an opportunity for cooperation to advance those rights, a country where more Americans can receive health care so that they may pursue their own happiness and a country where ingenuity and education allow us to once again lead the world. These aspirations may seem steep at first sight, but if Obama’s presidency goes anything like his election, then we are guaranteed to exceed our nation’s wildest aspirations.