“…What may seem like elusive hopes are no more than the reasonable expectations of a deserving public.”

– Susan E. Rice in an essay entitled “This Year From Hell,” published in the New York Times October 14, 2020.

The year I turned 60 was the year that Barack Obama won the Presidency for a second term. That era seems like a dream now. It’s hard to believe it ever happened, especially the second time when the nation wasn’t simply voting against crisis, but rather voting for hope.

It was also the year my father-in-law died in his 100th year. We were told that he died mid-sentence telling a joke. I hope that’s true. I don’t care whether or not it’s true. It certainly seems fitting for having lived a century. For having lived through the 1918 Pandemic, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Red Scare, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, and 9/11, just to name a few.

Above all, my father-in-law was a gentleman, a gentle man. He loved, honored and respected his wife, and he wept often during the eighteen months that he survived her. He moved into an independent living home for elderly. There I saw him carry his lifetime of southern gentility to the entire community. He put his excellent memory to use and remembered to speak by name to every individual living there. He’d walk up to some old grump steeped in isolation, say “How are you today, Harry?” and the old grump would jerk awake with a “Harrumpf! Wha — ?” And then answer, “Fine. How are you?”

Politically my father-in-law and I didn’t agree on anything. He voted against Obama. He listened to Rush Limbaugh every day. He was a kind and thoughtful man, a newspaper publisher, a well-read man, a smart man, a Phi Beta Kap. He just saw the world differently than I did.

Yet his ultimate contribution to the world was his three sons, all kind, well-informed men, good fathers and husbands, just like him. But all three are liberals. All three voted for Obama. So the old man’s vote was outnumbered, as it should have been.

Good conservative thoughts do evolve into good liberal thoughts. Over time. None of us were born defending gay rights or discursive on the placement of the comma in the Second Amendment.

Yes, these days our hopes seem elusive. The catastrophes keep piling up, like a car wreck on a busy highway. Will the elections be another demolition in the multi-vehicle mash-up?

Susan Rice reminds us that hopes are actually reasonable expectations, if we are a deserving public. Are we a deserving public? I’d say yes. We’ve made a lot of mistakes, used poor judgment, bent to the will of self-interested powers, but all in all, we are a deserving public.