What can one man do? Can one person change the world?
As I woke this morning in the wake of the 57th presidential election in the United States of America, I saw two broad reactions: fear and joy. Many among my family and friends are genuinely afraid of what our president will do to our country. At the same time, many of my friends (fewer of my family) are genuinely excited for what our president will do for our country.
I’ve not been alive that long, and in my life I’ve only paid close attention to the most recent election cycles. In all, I don’t think I’ve seen such extremes of emotions as I have following this election. Maybe it is because, really for the first time, this election has been most broadly covered not just by the news media, but my the vastly larger social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and every other social media web site that I can think of has exploded with photos, quips, blurbs, posts, and opinions of every kind. (Indeed, I am now blogging about the experience). I’ve read the thoughts of those around the country, and around the world, as people have discussed the next president of the United States.
Certainly never before have I been personally aware of the global implications of one election.
In my lifetime the world has become an increasingly tiny place. Globalization and world wide connections went from largely non-existent to commonplace. When I was a kid, I could talk on the telephone mounted on the wall to my grandmother in Ohio. Today, I can type on the telephone that fits into my pocket with room to spare to anyone in the world, or even the few people who orbit the world from the International Space Station. I receive live updates from a robot that is rolling along the surface of Mars. For a kid who loaded up the very first LEGO and Star Wars websites on a very slow modem, that is nothing short of incredible.
It is no wonder, then, that so many are invested in the politics of one nation.
Beyond the interest, beyond the investment, beyond the curiosity, I see real, raw emotions. People are crying, hurting, grieving, cheering, shouting, laughing. Some believe that real progress has come, others feel that the apocalypse is nigh. How can that be? How can the election of one man, and the non-election of another (whom many people had never heard of a year ago) cause such emotion?
I think because now, more than ever, one small voice can change the world. One person can impact everyone. Recently several dictatorships have crumbled, several countries saw revolutions of freedom, and in at least one of those revolutions, social media facilitated that revolution. Instead of one Paul Revere there were hundreds, and instead of one route and one man shouting, there were hundreds of avenues of communication and hundreds of voices shouting.
But each of those voices is one of many, and unless you are looking for them, tuned in to them, you might not ever hear them. Now, more than ever, the person who controls the loudest, widest megaphone is still heard over all the rest. More people hear the President of the United States than any single voice on Twitter.
Can Barack Obama’s voice carry that much power? Can he, speaking from the Oval Office, change the world? Can one man destroy or exalt a nation?
Only if many other voices join his. One man, one woman, one person, is powerless by themselves. This has been, and always will be, the case.
George Washington could not and did not forge a new nation single handedly. Abraham Lincoln could not and did not keep American one nation by himself. Even Jesus Christ, whom many consider to be the greatest man who ever lived (or lives still), would have been just one of many messiahs who walked Palestine had it not been for the voices of his followers who spread the good news of the man from Galilee to every corner of the globe, who wrote about him while in prison, exile, or under the threat of death. Maybe Jesus was God, that is for each person to decide, but my point is that by choosing to avail himself of the help of humanity, Jesus was every bit as dependent on the joining together of many voices for his message to be heard. How else could billions be swayed by his message of love and faith when, at most, mere hundreds personally witnessed his life and death, and alleged resurrection.
How do we expect that one man, Barack Obama, can destroy or exalt America by himself? Would Mitt Romney have rescued American and put it back on the right path?
The president is one person in one White House. The supreme court justices are nine people. There are 100 men and women in the Senate. The House of Representatives contains 435 voting members. This country has well over 300 million citizens. Obama presides by the consent of the governed. The supreme court judges by the consent of the governed. The senate legislates by the consent of the governed. Representatives represent by the consent of the governed. Five hundred and forty-five people govern a United States of three hundred million people. Every single one of the four hundred and thirty-five are replaceable by any one of the 300 million (eventually).
We are a nation of the people, by the people, for the people.
One man is powerless against the good or evil 300 million people can do. The reality is that no policy of the White House, no law of Capitol Hill, not decision of the Supreme Court can truly govern the heart of one person. George Washington was bound by, and subject to, the laws of the King of England. Laws he ignored to lead a revolution. Jesus was bound by, and subject to, the laws of Moses and the laws of Caesar, many of which he ignored to lead a different sort of revolution.
Fear not, rejoice not, the responsibility to do good and to shape your country is now, and will always be, yours alone every single day. The good book says “To him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is wrong” and I do not disagree. Each and every day the will, the desire, and the power to change your life, your family, your nation, and your world is in your hands. Four hundred and thirty-five people in Washington, D.C. cannot ever take that from you, not even the 435th man who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue for another four years.
A great man once said “be the change you want to see” and another great man once said “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Those two non-elected men changed the world despite their governments. Obama can do nothing unless a great many people share his voice. He would be one man shouting into a world of billions. Raise your voice, and do all that you can do for those who live and breathe right next to you. That is how America is made great, that is how the world is changed, and it has nothing to do with who is president of the United States of America.
You can live in fear of what Obama may do. You can live in joy of what Obama can do. But neither is as powerful as living in the knowledge of what you can do.
So only one question remains: what will you do?
What will I do?