January 20th, 2009
11:46 AM ET

A time of hope

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

They have come from all over the country: San Francisco, Charlotte, Hartford, Atlanta, Grand Rapids. Old and young, black and white, Asian, and Hispanic. They have traveled in wheelchairs and by skateboards. A few arrive in limos, thousands have taken the subway. Many have just walked. But their purpose is the same. They are in the nation's capital to witness history; to be able - years from now, when asked, "Where were you when he took office? What were you doing?" - to respond, “I was there."

As a long time Washingtonian, I am experienced at riding the Metro (subway) system. So when they warned that millions were expected to attend the Inauguration of Barack Obama, I knew it was going to be tough getting into work. Arriving this morning at 6:30 a.m. at my local station I found the crowds to be heavy, but light-hearted. It may have been cold, but the feeling was warm. People with Obama buttons, hats, and banners jammed the Metro platforms. All were smiling, none minded that there was standing room only on the train. Once in transit they began to sing, to laugh, and to talk to strangers. It was a feeling of camaraderie, of pure joy that I have never experienced on our subway system. And the hope and anticipation was contagious.

As we enter into a new age of American politics - as we watch the first black American become the 44th President of The United States - it is time to take stock of our love for our country and our love for one another. We are one nation of good people from all nationalities, who care about the state of our union. It is time we join hands and support our new administration - we all MUST, be we Republicans or Democrats, Independents or those just uninterested - to take care of one another and make this country strong. These are tough times. Our hearts are stressed, our minds are clouded. If we have hope, all things are possible. Positive thinking can make all the difference, both physically and mentally. Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve our health. Positive thinking reflects our outlook on life, our attitude towards ourselves and others. So instead of complaining, it's time to do something for one another. We still have a long way to go to get the U.S. back on track, but this is the perfect time to start.

What do you think?

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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Ellen Beth Levitt

    Wonderful commentary. I agree that it' s a new day. Joy, tears and hope that the new president can set us on the right course to solve our most pressing problems. Here at the University of Maryland Medical Center, we set up big flat-screen TVs in several areas where employees and visitors could watch the inauguration events all day. (Patients watched from their rooms). About 50 people gathered at each large TV in the public spaces to watch the swearing in ceremony and President Obama's speech. I noticed a palpable sense of community at each spot, kind of like a mini version of the amazing spirit on the Mall. Some people shed tears while others cheered. And others stood quietly, reflecting on the impact of today's events. It's a new day. A new era.

    I hope the spirit so evident today will continue and grow, and result in more kindness and caring for others–not for our own self interests (the attitude of the past) but to help build a stronger community with the muscle to lift us out of our most pressing problems.

    January 20, 2009 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Katheine J, MPH

    Do I think now is the perfect time to start the long journey to getting the US back on track? Absolutely. Do I think we're a bit late? Definitely.

    I choose not to choose sides in politics – seen as a crime by many where I live – but choose ideals and candidates. I was not entirely on the Obama bandwagon, but after seeing the way he has mobilized so many, I cannot help but jump on. My only fear is that many (not Obama) seem to cite "hope" as the solution. Yet hope in and of itself does not bolster the economy, create jobs, halt unjust Gitmo tribunals, bring troops home, etc. If the momentum of pride that Obama-mania has created can continue, then I think this country is going great places. However, as the drapes of red, white and blue are taken down...I can only "hope" that people are actually mobilized to take ACTION.

    On an individual level, we know that positive thinking can improve health outcomes. Revered scientific journals like The Lancet and NEJM have published literature on the benefits of mindset on the physical body. However, there is little written on the impact of positive thinking by an entire nation on social situations. I work in public health, so it's abundantly clear to me that EVERYONE has to take specific action for the good of both the public and the individual. If that means getting a job that doesn't pay as well as the one you lost, or changing spending habits, great. If that means taking some time to volunteer at a community center, wonderful. I only hope that the smiles that adorned faces across the country yesterday can back up that joy by taking actual steps to DO something to get this country back on track.

    Obama is only one. Don't make him go at it alone.

    January 21, 2009 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. GF, Los Angeles

    I think we all need to start making the changes with ourselves and not expect others to do things for us. The amount of trash left behind after the inauguration yesterday was disgusting. I can't believe that people did not pick up after themselves and expected someone else to do it – this entitlement mentality is what got us into this mess. Luckily there were a few people who saw the amount of trash left behind that they actually started to pick up after all the others. This country needs to quit being lazy and start doing just the simplest of things like picking up after themselves.

    January 21, 2009 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. thelastresortpa

    Bravo and well said... Hopefully the euphoria does not waste away. Hopefully this is not a celebration of a First! Hopefully this is about change and a positive direction. I believe in the American spirit and hope. The nay-sayers are watching.

    Your blog is what we teach at The Last Resort Panama to Americans about how to live life to focus on the positive and believe in life. I hope that everyone that reads your column makes a commitment to do the same.

    Thanks for sharing...

    Dan Callahan, LMSW

    January 22, 2009 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Shauntay Walton

    I completely agree that we all need to seize the moment and the many opportunities to effect change within the health community. Improving the state of healthcare overall is key in promoting positive healthcare outcomes in our country. However, the overall state will not be improved unless we all do our parts in increasing awareness. In doing so, I also believe that small progressive steps toward improvement begins with advocating for greater access for all to quality healthcare in order to decrease healthcare disparities.

    January 25, 2009 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.