The greatest achievement of the Obama administration came with his election.
I am among those who think the worst sin of our wonderful country has been anti-black racism. It produced many great evils for black and white Americans. Worse, it produced an irrationality at the heart of the American experiment in equal liberty right from the beginning. The civil rights movement turned the corner in changing the culture of America. Only after the civil rights revolution was it possible for America to begin to realize the meaning of her creed, as Martin Luther King said.
The election of Barack Obama sealed the victory in the long struggle against America's worst sin. This does not mean that racism is over - it probably never will be, certainly not in the foreseeable future. But the old era is dead. The new generations that come after now will find segregation as hard to imagine as slavery. Barack Obama is in the role of Joshua to the civil rights generation's Moses.
Barack Obama is an African American. But he is also a representative of the new generation that lives beyond the old black and white struggle. His parents were black and white. His children are African American in the usual sense of the word. He, though, also represents the new generation of Americans who came from all over the world, the post-1965 generation of global America. I believe that the Obamas are a potent symbol of the way forward, not only beyond our original sin, but also beyond the new ethnic conflicts of this generation.
Still, the first black president can't just be average. He has to be a great president. His family has to be exemplary. It was inevitable that the first black president would face extraordinary tests just because some groups would try to test him. That he also has to deal with a major recession and wind up an elective war and face global warming were not inevitable, but they add to my sense that this president has to be extraordinary.
Time will tell whether Barack Obama will be a great president, or even a decent one. I think his preparation, his family, his character, and his convictions all are well suited to greatness in the larger role that history has thrust upon him. I will be watching and hoping for his success with keen interest.