America needs a president who believes in America and the American people and believes that America can and must be a force for good in this world
Listening to President Joe Biden's inaugural address it occurred to me that perhaps I and other pundits like myself do not give him enough credit.
My take on the election had been that it had essentially been a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump and that voters had voted against Trump more than they had voted for Biden.
Biden had been picked as the candidate because his middle of the road inoffensiveness and folksy charm would not scare away swing voters and give them an excuse to vote for four more years of Trump.
He was not especially inspiring on the campaign trail and few expected him to be an inspiring or memorable president if elected.
But I am beginning to suspect that there is more to President Biden than that, and that perhaps we have been selling him short.
Let us not underestimate the significance of having a man of his transparent decency and honesty in the office of the US president.
Even more important, and in stark contrast to his predecessor, what America and the world saw at President Biden's inauguration on January 20 was a man truly humbled by the majesty of the office he had ascended to and the awesome responsibility that had been placed on his shoulders.
This is a man who will take the presidency seriously. I believe him when he says that he will govern for all Americans and that his primary goal is to heal the divisions that threaten to tear America apart.
What America and the world saw standing before the Capitol Dome on Wednesday morning, for the first time in four long years, was a president.
Indeed, one had only to compare president-elect Biden's public pronouncements since the November election to those of the then-sitting president to appreciate the difference between the two men and see evidence of how only one of them was fit for the presidency.
This was once again made abundantly clear at the inauguration, but my sense is that it is not merely in comparison to his predecessor that President Biden will look good, but that he has the resolve and the determination to make his mark in the history books as a president who rose to the challenge of his times.
And make no mistake about it, President Biden comes to office at a time of almost unprecedented crisis and challenge for the US. Not only does he take office in the teeth of a pandemic that has taken 400,000 American lives, but from climate change to disappearing jobs to rising inequality and a host of other challenges, the times ensure that he will have his work cut out for him from Day One and that the stakes for his presidency will be extraordinarily high.
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But what gives me the most confidence in President Biden's ability to turn around the American ship of state is his recognition of the fundamental damage that has been done to the soul of the country and his determination that America be guided by the principles of righteousness and justice.
A country that has lost its moral bearings is a country that will neither be able to solve its own problems, let alone grow and thrive, nor to offer leadership on the global stage.
We all know very well, as does President Biden, what America's failings are, both at home and abroad, from its original sins of genocide and slavery to its overseas atrocities from Hiroshima and Vietnam to the Gulf War and drone strikes.
But President Biden understands that this is not all America is, that America has been better and that if it is to renew itself that it must be better, and recapture the conviction that compassion and concern for the public good and the welfare of one's fellow humans and the planet on which we live must be the key to the American ethos.
America, after all, is the country whose young men stormed the beaches at Normandy in 1945 to help liberate a far-away country and deliver a continent from evil, it is the country of the moon landing and Martin Luther King, it is the country where the son of a Kenyan man can rise to the presidency and the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India can take office as the vice president.
More than anything, America needs a president who believes in America and the American people and believes that America can and must be a force for good in this world, who truly believes, with a tip of the hat to Abraham Lincoln, that the better angels of America's nature have always and will always prevail.
And in the 46th president of the United States I am cautiously optimistic that it has one.
Zafar Sobhan is the editor of Dhaka Tribune