Yet all that hope, and all that change, were blocked at every turn by entrenched interests in Congress, fueled by money and engineered by lobbyists. A hatred of the President, racism barely below the surface, fed a childish tantrum that reflexively opposed everything the President suggested, everything he stood for.
Everyone is saying what a great week this has been for the President. But it's only a great week in the context of what has come before. Yes, the Affordable Care Act survived yet another court challenge. But the very fact that this watered down version of universal health care is the subject of so much opposition is troubling. Saving it is a small victory - introducing truly universal, single payer healthcare would have been worth celebrating. But in today's America, small victories are all that's on offer. Yes, same sex marriage is now legal across the country, but it is far from universally accepted. The vitriol in the Court's dissenting opinions, and from many of the Republican leaders, is baffling. This is an issue that will have no effect on their lives, yet could have profound, positive effects on the lives of others. Their strident opposition to something that costs them nothing can be born of only judgmental hate.
The President's speech was heartfelt. To me, there was a tone of desperation, of resignation, of exhaustion. It was the speech of a man who, free of the burden of re-election aspirations, could speak honestly. A man who has come to realize that despite all his efforts, most of what he wanted to achieve would be left undone. Like many eulogies given following a senseless death, Obama was searching for meaning, for a shred of goodness that might be gleaned from the pain. It was clear, though, that this searching transcended the Pastor's death. His earlier insistence that things had improved was no doubt true. That he felt he had to say it said so much more.
When the history of this era is written, will it be seen as a presidency ahead of its time, yet the start of a transformation towards an America that truly represents its ideals of "life, liberty and justice for all"? Or will it be seen as a last grasp at decency, before the moral and economic decay of a once great society accelerated so quickly it became irretrievable?
Sadly, for me, yesterday seemed to be a funeral not only for Reverend Pinckney, but for the hope and the promise Obama once symbolized.