AS THE nation wavers precariously at the precipice of economic ruin, American voters must decide who has the knowledge, steadiness, judgment, and inspirational qualities to lead us effectively out of that morass, for the next four years and beyond.
For guidance in arriving at this momentous decision, the election of the next president of the United States, we can look to the sober lessons of history. Without exaggeration, the country faces a transformational election on Nov. 4, not unlike that of 1932, which prefaced Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal and a long slog out of the Great Depresssion.
Like the choice 76 years ago, next month's election is one in which voters have the power to cast aside the failed, greed-driven principles of governance and economics that have led to the current downturn and return to an equilibrium in which hard work is again rewarded by a decent standard of living for the average American.
To be sure, the path to recovery won't be easy for the next president. There are ominous signs that the economy will continue to falter before confidence can be restored in the financial system. The leadership required to contain and reorder the economic mess created by eight years of heedless deregulation will have to be both inspired and inspiring.
We believe the person best equipped by temperament and intellect to firmly grasp the reins of government and guide it safely forward in these uncertain times is Barack Obama.
Like another member of Congress from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, Senator Obama initially rose to prominence on the strength of soaring oratory. Over the past 18 months of the grueling campaign, his background has been thoroughly inspected and dissected by the press and a political opposition dedicated to keeping him from the White House.
The man who has emerged is young (47) but well-educated and accomplished, both as a state legislator and a member of the United States Senate. He is somewhat professorial but not stodgy, and in our direct contact with him he proved to be one of few politicians at his level with the capacity to actually listen to others and appreciate what they have to say.
During the campaign, Senator Obama also has shown himself to possess steely self-control, a single-minded focus, and endearing good humor in the face of specious attacks on everything from his biracial origin to his boyhood upbringing to his acquaintances during his political career in rough-and-tumble Chicago.
His calm and deliberate demeanor is particularly important because steadiness at the helm of government will be necessary to extricate the United States from its current crisis of confidence, both in politics and economics.
We have to ask ourselves: Which candidate will be better able to inspire the American people? Which will do a better job of casting off the politics of personal destruction and appealing to our better natures, calling us to service, encouraging needed sacrifices, and developing the new approaches necessary for the 21st century? Which will see the current troubles as an opportunity to shape a better future?
Themes from the abbreviated reign of John F. Kennedy, as well as FDR, resonate in 2008. Fear drives the domestic and international financial markets. As FDR realized, calmness, confidence, and optimism are part of the solution. In these troubled times, JFK's call to ask what we can do for our country instead of what it can do for us gains new meaning. Americans must step up and hold out a helping hand to their fellow citizens both as individuals and collectively.
America needs a new direction, not just because the current administration's economic policies - not to mention its war-bound foreign policies - have contributed to our current problems, but because we have lost our way in terms of the proper relationship between government and the people and, more importantly, the responsibility we owe each other. Americans who view the future with optimism do not - even in the face of terrorism - give up the basic freedoms our revolutionary forefathers died to secure.
Sen. John McCain, by nature, has shown himself to be incapable of providing the American people with an optimistic vision of the future. Firmly rooted in the failed politics and policies of the past, he cannot guide us on a path he does not see.
Senator Obama already has demonstrated that he is a man of the future in the way he has inspired a new generation of voters to become involved in the political process and to actively strive for a better tomorrow.
As a president from another era suggested, Americans should ask themselves: Am I better off than I was eight years ago? Four years ago? The answer is obvious and, therefore, the option on Nov. 4 is clear.
Historically, Ohio has had a critical role in presidential elections and appears poised once again to be a key in deciding who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years. This is an awesome responsibility, and one that cannot be taken lightly. For the future of Ohio and America, there is only one reasonable choice for president: Barack Obama.