School children across America, like the this group from Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco, gathered to sing songs like This Land is your Land and watch a historic moment in our history. Cheering, high-fiving and hugging, they celebrated not only the inauguration but a victory they badly need as a generation that has inherited a planet in peril and debt from sea to shining sea. The reiterated message has been clear: If someone with Barack Obama’s beginnings can end up as president, we can accomplish anything.
“When I grew up in D.C. it was a segregated city and today, we are swearing in the first African American president of the United States,” Brandeis Middle School head Neal Biskar told the students and parents crowded in the gym.
Many of those parents, like myself, grew up believing we shared a struggle with Black Americans. Jews were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement, walking arm-in-arm with protesters in the South, and before that, forming the NAACP and Urban League. At the summer camps I attended, songs like We Shall Overcome and If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus were viewed as American anthems. Indeed, we shared a collective consciousness as survivors who have overcome great odds.
A day later, as I watched the national prayer service in Washington the music led me to tears, even though it wasn’t my music. The Rev. Sharon Watkins, the first woman to deliver the event’s sermon, urged the President to make the right choices, loving God by loving one’s neighbors. “Lead us there, Mr. President, she said. “That is a journey worth pursuing.”
While we all know the economy is his first stop on that journey, our country’s top environmentalists have suggested what should be done in the President’s first 100 days on the job to address our energy woes and move towards a sustainable future The green agenda, provided by Alternet, includes these steps:
- Stimulate the economy through investments in clean energy technology, energy efficiency, green-collar jobs, and training.
- Lay the groundwork for legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
- Work with Congress to end tax incentives and subsidies for high carbon-emitting technologies and projects.
- Enact mandates that 20 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable power by 2020 and at least 30 percent by 2030.
- Instruct the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose the risks and opportunities they face from climate change.
- Institute financial reforms to require honest accounting of the financial risks that companies and investors face from climate change and other sustainability threats.
- Direct the EPA to issue California’s clean car waiver, allowing it and 18 other states to implement stringent fuel efficiency standards.
- Re-engage and provide strong leadership in the international climate negotiation process.
It’s easy to see our President has his work cut out for him, perhaps inheriting more on his plate than any other American leader. Still, we have to think about what those school children will inherit if we don’t get the work done. Loving our neighbors can mean so many things, including caring for the land as a global community and exporting good will and food rather than weapons to those in need. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall be the country we want to be.