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Optimism -- For the First Time in 8 Years


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22 January 2009, 11:21 AM
 

I joined Tuesday's huge crowd in Washington to witness the inauguration of our 44th President. The people who traveled from all over the country had worked to elect Barack Obama and create a community of hope, optimism, and readiness to tackle the challenges, and that spirit pervaded the Mall.

For me, as for so many, a big part of the amazement and deep joy that I experienced was because our nation had elected an African-American as our president. The ideals and the movement that made Barack Obama's election possible stretch back to the American Revolution, through the Civil War and the great social movements of the 20th century—steady, hard work to broaden our democracy and push it to live up to its founding ideals. Obama didn't create this movement; it created the opportunity that he and his unique talents have stepped into.

As Obama took the oath of office, I was remembering years before when, as a young lawyer in North Carolina, I went to court over and over fighting discrimination to make the vote of African-Americans meaningful and to end discrimination on the job. Had anyone predicted this back then, when we were struggling to bring political power to African-Americans, we'd have been considered deranged.

We also might have been considered loony more recently had we predicted that today we would have a president with a strong environmental agenda and an ambitious clean energy plan to back it up.

But it's happened, and it's given rise to an unfamiliar sense of optimism that's been missing for eight years. Stoking that optimism are these words of President Obama from just a few days ago, putting forth his vision for the immediate future:

To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75 percent of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.

Based upon such promises, and because he has surrounded himself with several strong environmental appointees, we should see these actions during the early days of the Obama administration:

  • Many green initiatives in the upcoming stimulus package.
  • A sea change in America's role internationally, from one of arrogance and condescension to leadership and collaboration, including on climate.
  • Quick action to allow California and other states (a dozen have declared their intention to follow California's lead) to set stiffer vehicle emission standards than current federal standards.
  • A green light to the Environmental Protection Agency to begin regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The Supreme Court ruled in that direction nearly two years ago; the Bush administration defied the ruling.
  • Substantial movement toward returning science to its proper role in informing decisions on the environment and public health.
  • Steps toward removing mercury from power plant and cement kiln emissions.
  • Progress toward restoring the scope of the Clean Water Act.
  • And a new day at the Department of Energy on renewables and efficiency.

We must also, however, face the reality of the deep economic hole we are in, and the shackles it will put on all good intentions. The immense demands on the federal budget simply won't allow the kinds of increases we need in environmental protection and enforcement of existing laws. And, the urgent necessity to create jobs will almost certainly cause some conflicts.

The economic crisis is likely to mean cuts in the budgets of environmental agencies at all levels, federal, state, and local. The California budget crisis, for instance, has frozen funding for hundreds of environmental projects. Agencies will not have the staffing and funding to adequately enforce the laws we have on the books. This puts the onus on citizen groups to become involved more deeply in enforcement efforts. And, finally, the outgoing administration is leaving behind a horrendous mess that will have to be cleaned up, and that will take time and money.

Fortunately, President Obama isn't alone as he begins his journey of change. He has swept into the White House with a mandate of wide support from a nation that wants to move forward into a clean and healthy future. Most Americans, by an overwhelming margin, are hoping he succeeds. Old divisions are melting and we are becoming a people united in our adversity and in our hope—a people ready to roll up our sleeves and start doing the hard work that surely will make that future ours.

We all need to quadruple our efforts to create the possibilities for Obama and the Congress and for progress at the state and local level, too. If we don't, politics as usual and the interests that control Washington will steer things their way. As Obama said over and over during the campaign, this isn't about him—it's about us. That is even more true with him in office than during the campaign.

How's that change working out for you now?

I have hope in our new president and without hope ,you have nothing to lose.I have concerns and I'm worried someone will take him away from us.All we can do is express our concerns and sit back and listen to what he says and does. I also want to Thank-You all For your work protect,what is important!
Darla

THANK YOU so MUCH!
It IS Appreciated!

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
It IS Appreciated!

Now we environmental lawyers can finally get to work. I am ready for a new era of environmental law!

President Obama!
You are an incredible blessing to this country - and world! Thank you for saving the gray wolves. And thank you in advance for the many other environmental acts you will do to preserve this wonderful world and all of its inhabitants. The real predators for the past 8 years have been the those of the Bush Administration. Thank God we can get back to what is important!

Dear Obama, you are a gift from God... Thank you for protecting God's creation, the EARTH & WILDLFE! May God bless and protect you always. Sincerely, Shelly Pinks, LaPorte, Indiana.

Thank you for saving our beautiful gray wolves.

The wolves can celebrate! The earth can celebrate! Americans can celebrate! We have a president who sincerely cares about wildlife, the environment, and animals (the new dog will come from a shelter). Compassion and protection, change we can and will believe in.

Thank you for remembering our deep connections. Thank you for signing on behalf of the wild creatures who are our relatives. Thank you for making right a beginning. I look forward with great anticipation.

Dear President Obama,
So far you've had a phenominal first week in remaking America and helping this planet survive. Thank you for including protection of the irreplacable gray wolf.

Finally, optimism and hope and Thank You from all "Gods" creatures.

Thank you for saving all the wild animals that have more of right to live then we do.

What a wonderful president. He is so in tuned with our times. I am so tired of Bush standing in the way of taking care of our planet! Nobody can tell me this years hurricanes is just a cycle. Its GLOBAL WARMING and we better get it under control or we will all pay for it.

DEAR PRESIDENT OBAMA:
THANK YOU FOR SAVING THE GRAY WOLVES. THANK YOU FOR PROTECTING VOICELESS ANIMALS.
YOU ARE THE BEST THING 2009 BROUGHT TO THE USA.
LOVE

Dear President,
Thank you for stepping up and straighting out some of Bushe's dirty deeds.
Sincerely,
Jack Forster

An immense THANK YOU for undoing some of the atrocities of the Bush administration

Let the wolf rule by playful spirit.
Our energy needs can be met by fast growing trees. Read the book: Alcohol Can Be a Gas.

Dear President Obama,
I knew it was not a mistake voting for you.
Thank you for saving our Wolves.
Sincerely,
Sue Edwards

A huge and grateful thank you to President Obama for saving our wolves.
Thank you to President Obama for giving us a hope of saving what is left of our natural resources and wildlife. Thank you, too, for recognizing the urgent problem of global warming, and the need for green industry and jobs at this time.
I look forward with happiness and hope to great things happening in America. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and helping in the work we all have ahead of us.

Mr. President,
Thank you for acting on behalf of the voiceless, but extraordinary species with whom we share this beautiful world.
This says a great deal about your leadership, compassion and integrity.
Cheers!

Dear President Obama,
I have all the faith in the world in you that you will do just what you have said to us all.I know that also,cause not only do I believe in you,but you got a majority of the peoples attention & willingness to unite with one another & do what we should be doing,helping one another out.By doing that it is helping you as well as ourselves.You Have a great future ahead of you.You will be a wonderful President(boy do we need that desperately)& you have two lovely daughters & a very Lovely & loving wife by your side.Sincerely yours & all my love,
Shelly Rickel

Finally!! I am very excited and happy that we are moving towards the right direction. Obama is a great change from the past administration and we all have to work hard to support him. Let's remeber he cannot do it himself.

thank you Pres. Obama.

My gratitude cannot fully express to the President, how wonderful it is that he is sharing his gifts with the world. He truly cares about our planet and the future of our children. I thank him for his wisdom.

Dear Mr. President.
Thank you for saving the wolves. These beautiful creatures deserve a life free of fear.

Thank you Mr. President for saving the wolves. I hope that you will do the same to other endangered species that Bush has turned over to the oil companies. The polar bear is another endangered animal that needs our protection. These animals were placed here by a caring God for our care, we should do nothing less than protect them. Bless you and thank you.

Its about time someone put an end to this carnage. Lets hope the new administration keeps the trek forward with animal welfare and environmental protection, which Im quite optimistic it will do.
This is exciting, indeed.

Thank you for halting a last-minute Bush attempt to strip federal protections from northern gray wolves next week. Finally a world view with sanity, humanity and the realization that we and all other species are the units of this planet and whatever we do to another we do to ourselves. We have to take care of each other with respect for each others right for existance.

i would like to think that the president obama that says he has a heart and the love for his country he would put a end of suffering for the envronmet/animals lets put a end to sarah palin to stand down god bless you and please keep your promises

Kudos to you Mr. President for ushering in such good energy to our land by making choices that respect our environment and it's inhabitants. Your compassionate and intelligence will bring healing to those of us with 2 legs as well as 4! Thank you so much!

Thank heavens for the new era. When one species is destroyed we all pay later in some way. We are all intertwined in the scheme of nature. Every person and every species is very important for us to survive.

God Bless you President Obama for saving the wolves. President Bush and his administration were callous regarding our environment/animals. We count on you to undo the damage left behind.
Thank you!

Thank you for saving the wolf. We need to continue to work toward a balance between man and nature.
The wolf is part of that balance.

Thank you for your hard work. I am so happy to hear that the hunt will not go ahead as planned. I think that we are all fired up and ready to help our new President!

Thank you for halting the attack on the gray wolves. There are many other executive orders that you need to do to safeguard our special places and keep good on your environmental promises.

Thank you!!!! It's about time the natural predators are being protected from people like Bush and his "friends". Is it possible to get Sarah Palin to stand down now?

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