As a law school professor, people have asked me, "What is it that young people think Barack Obama will do for them?"
It's an important question -- and without going to the John F. Kennedy quote, which is the greatest temptation -- here's my 2 cents:
The kids don't think he can do anything for them that he hasn't done already. He came to the presidential race as a strong, bright constitutional scholar with gravitas; an attractive and easily resonant combination for this generation and for me too.
He put his principles and life on the line (he faced countless death threats) in order to let people know: We don't have to wait any longer for all voices to be heard. In that simple, difficult act of courage, his campaign instilled hope. When he made it to the finish line a winner, the kids saw that hope can be fulfilled. The man they backed was strong enough and smart enough and cohesive-force enough to win, to be a leader. And the kids came out winners because they chose right and their voices counted. They were heard. They are victorious and now stronger by having made an effort that succeeded.
They took a leap of faith; the net appeared. They are now believers.
As an added benefit, he let us know for sure that the color of our skin is no longer an issue with the majority of people in this country. This is a major step towards mending the rifts that have held us back. Tikkun Olam (mending the world) needs this step.
What can he do? He has inherited a terrible mess. We've hired him to resolve big problems, big difficulties. He knows he can't do it alone, and we've just seen that as a builder of teams and focus, he is a genius. (Anyone who has ever worked with the Democratic Party for more than a day knows what "a herd of cats" really means.) He is an open and studious leader, attuned to many voices. He will remain open to knowledge as well as information. He has chosen and will continue to choose outstanding people from all parties to inform, to advise and to run our government.
When you step on a land mine and survive, or you walk into a buzz-saw, you get strewn into a million pieces and you lie bleeding on the ground. (Looks like our country right now, doesn't it?) You don't go back and dig up the mine or destroy the buzz-saw during that time. You do not focus on history or revenge when survival is your goal. You do the triage, gather the little pieces together and try to keep them safe. Get to high ground. Mend. Heal. At high ground you see the lay of the land and you are protected by perspective and gravity. From there, you can get back to work.
He is courageous and smart enough to do at least that much. He'll get us to high ground.
Fehrman is a professor of legal skills at California Western School of Law.