MAHATMA Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” may be the best New Year’s resolution for a world now feeling the full brunt of the global financial crisis last year. The words may also be relevant in the light of the sweeping changes that have been happening, such as the inaugural of Barack Obama as the first black United States president.

Seeing an African-American become the 44th president of America, most people are becoming zeitgeist about the prospects of his presidency. Because of the financial crisis, many countries hope he will bring enough beneficial change in the US quickly since the economies of other countries like the Philippines depend on it.

It seems change is Obama’s charism: he himself is a product of it. America has taken a giant leap in electing a black leader despite the racial divide. And Obama’s fairy tale-like ascent to power projects him as a savior who mirrors the hope of many people in the midst of great despair.

Obama’s agenda has been laid down early. It’s to clean up the mess left by the previous administration, particularly the financial crisis. His strategy of reaching out to the masses left the nation a mark and made himself a “humble” figure of change. This paved way for his election in order to forge a consensus on how to get America out of the rut.

In a way, Obama’s approach is to go back to the essence of democracy that was only given lip-service to by the previous government. Democracy is about people.It’s not about power and power-play. It’s not just about figures—inflation, trade, taxation, or self interest campaigns. It’s about ordinary people who get to have food on the table, get access to decent education, and need not bid farewell to family members to work abroad. It’s simply about improving the lives of the common people.

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Perhaps the example of Obama should be instructive to Filipinos.

But it seems this early, political prostitutes are aiming for the presidency especially those that come from the political or show-biz elite. They’re serving as mess in Philippine politics. They vote not to legislate change but to profit, and they run not to make a difference but to make demands. None of them has the non-establishment credentials. None of them is like Obama who has the vision and the drive to implement substantial change that may lead to his country’s stability.

There is no such thing as a perfect world or country, but is it wrong to hope?

One of my esteemed friends once said that: young people like us possess the romantic desire to reach for the ultimate despite contrary signals for one to stay close to the ground. We are torn between the concepts of idealism and realism. But with realism comes optimism, then there’s practicality.

What’s good about being young is the sense of being hooked in quasi-perfect ideals that we must learn to stand and fight for as the future beacons of hope. Ultimately there will be change for the better and it will happen in the future.

But first, let’s take the first step. Like Gandhi, like Obama, let us be the change that we want to see in the world.

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