Change and Consistency for President 44

Barack Obama has come under fire for his picks for top administration positions. He's brought Clinton-era veterans Rahm Emanuel and Tom Daschle on board, has given Hillary the prized post of secretary of State, and has decided to stick with Gates for Defense secretary. A lot of liberals are disappointed that he's recruiting old hats since his mantra the entire campaign season was "Change we can believe in." Conservatives, for their part, worry that Obama will basically follow in Bill Clinton's footsteps, if not go even further — he was, after all, rated the most liberal senator.

So what's going on? It's not that Obama doesn't believe in change. Heck, as our nation's first black president, he is the embodiment of change. There are two reasons for his recent actions:

One, he knows he can't screw up because the world is expecting so much out of him. The American media has portrayed him as a near-messiah — there are people who think he's the next MLK and even the reincarnation of Christ. Some people have gone so far as to say that his victory will usher in a "new world order." Kenyan moms are naming their sons Barack left and right. The world over, people think that big global problems — everything from climate change to terrorism — are going to become easier to solve now that he's taking office.

Two, Obama's a politician to the core, concerned about his reputation above all else. He wants to play things safe and associate himself with people whom the public knows. Many people remain nervous about his past associations with people like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, so he's trying to prove that he's a centrist who's going to empower and bring together sensible people.

Partly because of his own campaign slogans and partly because of media fanfare, Obama has a tough job ahead of him. At the end of day, we should evaluate him on his success in getting America out of the financial wreck, restoring the nation's credibility, knocking out al Qaeda, and so on — in short, getting the job done. Sure, change sounds great, but it means nothing if it doesn't help us move forward.


Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.