Today is a day of renewal, hope and, most of all, pride, especially coming so appropriately a day after Martin Luther King Day. From Johnson to Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush to Clinton to Bush, hope has consistently deteriorated into despair and disappointment. So many individuals in our communities and throughout the world view ours as a decaying and a demoralized society. For a very long time it has been difficult to feel pride toward our country and to believe that our fundamental humanity would lead us out of the shadows and into the light.
Today, no matter what the future holds, we can be proud again of our heritage, our beliefs, our freedom, our spirituality, our humanity. Almost every aspect of our lives today is threatened by the realities of the economy. Although it could take years before we can regain confidence in our financial institutions and renew our trust in government, we can be proud once again of the American people and proud that our American spirit has renewed itself at a time of great need.
Every day we read about those individuals and organizations in business and government who have betrayed our trust. I expect many more shocking disclosures will be uncovered in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. It is inconceivable that such criminally destructive behavior has been empowered and allowed to fester and eat away at our foundations as a nation and as a people. It's even more shocking that so much will go unpunished. But depraved, immoral, unethical, greedy and illegal behavior should not come as a surprise when society loses pride in its heritage and belief in itself; when it honors wealth, greed, power and unearned celebrity above all else; and when it fails to offer meaningful hope for the future.
I am extremely grateful for the renewal of hope that has been engendered by the presidential candidacy and election of Barack Obama. With almost everyone I know among my family, my colleagues, and in the global community I share an incredible sense of pride today. I feel, for the first time ever, a genuine sense of oneness with the world. I know there are those who are opposed to the Obama Presidency and those who will confront us domestically and internationally. I know President Obama faces challenges of which we cannot even begin to conceive. I know the economy will worsen before it improves. I know that continuing human conflict, selfishness and anti-social behavior cannot be avoided.
But for today, we can set aside the past and dismiss our differences. We can stand together in the light of hope and pray that we can rebuild, renew and reconstruct our relationships, communities, businesses, nation and world. Most importantly, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King and the traditional Negro spiritual hymn, we can be proud at last, proud at last. Thank God we can be proud at last.