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Looking Forward from Las Vegas

I happened to be in Las Vegas during the final days of the election. It was a fitting location to watch the most historic election of my lifetime conclude with an outcome that many people I know felt was improbable less than a year ago. Vegas is, after all, a city familiar with difficult odds, and even the most seasoned Vegas veteran might have hesitated to wager on Senator Obama's.

As I walked through the sea of slots and roulette tables at the Imperial Palace, serenaded by Dolly Parton and Billy Idol impersonators, I thought the gamblers there were strangely reminiscent of a fatigued America in the waning days of the Bush administration. Exhausted and glassy-eyed—but driven by the excess oxygen pumped into their nostrils—they pulled levers and rolled dice hoping for some good fortune, pursuing a change in their luck that seemed remote but worth the effort. Outside the casino, many Americans fatigued from a nearly two-year campaign that whittled a pool of over a dozen candidates down to one hoped the pushing of electoral buttons would produce triple 7's for change.

In my experience, the gambling victory itself, surprising as it usually is, is the only savory and memorable part of the affair. I remember the individual wins but not what I spent the money on. Let's hope that Obama's victory, which presents real opportunities for the environmental movement and beyond, is different. Sweet as this watershed moment is to so many Americans, the results that it brings should be the true bounty.

Now that we've accepted the rhetorical change eloquently promised by Senator Obama, only the coming months and years will say decisively whether that optimistic future is ours. I for one don't plan to leave the outcome up to chance.