President Barrack Obama has in many ways personified a new dawn of hope and change not just in the United States but throughout much of the global world.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 27 January 2009

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In the midst of global recession and economic uncertainty his vision and presence speaks loudly about a shared dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a radical alternative from quick bucks and fast food to more traditional and indeed Gospel values that enhance the quality of all our lives. Obama carries a nation’s expectations, that he can take leadership in this process of change and renewal. A huge weight on one mans shoulder and time will tell if he can realize the dream that he articulates so well. “The challenges we face are real,” Obama said with great confidence as over two million people gathered around Washington’s Mall to witness this most historic event, as he was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America.

An event that seemed an unreality for so many previous generations, who were often violently segregated, in a culture where race and skin colour determined what opportunity or disadvantage life offered. Obama considered the very difficult lives that so many Ethnic groups had endured as they struggled to dream for human rights such as equality and opportunity. He spoke about a generation previous who would be prohibited from eating in certain restaurants, or using public transport, because of the colour of their skin.

Obama’s inauguration was a powerful symbol of hope and unity at a time when so many issues have made us all less confident and more uncertain. Without promising any one thing in particular, he paints a picture of what life could be, if people pull together. The reward was, he said, “the gift of freedom to future generations”. Obama is a man of deep faith and finds strength and inspiration from the presence of Jesus Christ in his life. In his book “The Audacity of Hope” Obama speaks at length about the reasons for the hope he carries in his heart, echoing the challenge St. Paul asks of us all “Always have reasons for the hope that you carry in your heart”.

It is so important in all our lives to have a sense of hope. In a time of uncertainty and burden the Gospel message and values have a great gift to offer us all. The message of Jesus is not a magical or superstitious one, but it is bold, radical and life changing. Hope gives us confidence when worry and doubt weigh heavily on our shoulders. Hope gives us a bigger picture than just our present reality. Hope invites us always to begin again in a new and brighter way. Hope allows us to know deep within our inner-selves, a God of great compassion and love resides. Hope encourages and uplifts us all, young and old, healthy and sick, rich and poor, black or white, Christian or Muslim. May Almighty God anoint us with great Hope. May we be able to indulge and avail in the reservoir of love that God wants to pour freely into all our hearts.