Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill...Obama?

PARIS – Exceptional circumstances – namely, the depth and urgency of the financial and economic crisis – have contributed to bringing an exceptional man, Barack Obama, to the American presidency. But will they also prevent him from succeeding? Will the spirit of hope that brought Obama to power triumph over the winds of economic and social despair, or will fear in the West of the looming global recession spread to Asia and destabilize its giants, China and India?

These are the major questions looming before us as the president-elect prepares the American people for what can only be a rough ride ahead.

The same Americans who cried with joy on the night of November 4 are now seized with apprehension as economic hardship becomes more real by the day, as they witness the consequences of the crisis for their neighbors, if not themselves. Faced with the urgent necessity of alleviating so many Americans’ suffering, Obama knows only too well that the “audacity of hope” will not be sufficient to the immensity of the challenges confronting him.

As the world slowly moves from elation to sober realism, it is important to maintain a balanced view of what’s happening and avoid the dual risks of underestimating the truly revolutionary nature of what took place and overestimating the ability of Obama’s team to find miracle solutions.