By Dr. Jan Hittelman

Whether or not you voted for Barack Obama, we can all agree that his election has had an amazing impact on our culture, our views, and on people worldwide. It’s an amazing time to witness in our history. Seeing the crowds that gathered in Germany for Barack Obama during the campaign gave us all a sense of his potential impact on world affairs. Despite foreboding economic times, multiple wars, and major environmental concerns, there seems to be a sense of optimism.

It is this effect that Barack Obama has had on our world. While the importance of electing the first African-American president cannot be denied, the impact Barack Obama has had on our country is even greater than that. He possesses a grace, confidence and a unique leadership style that resonates with millions of people all over the world.

President Obama seems to have the ability not just lead to but to inspire, which has resulted in a widely shared sense of optimism and hope. He has managed to take community activism to a presidential level.

This transformative experience that has been felt by Americans as well as people around the world can potentially have a profound impact on our governance as well as how we live our lives. No disrespect to our hard working community leaders, but many of us could use some inspiration on a local and personal level as well. Hopefully we will all be able to bottle some of this optimism and vision, incorporating the desire and determination for positive change within us all. Ultimately this positive energy may trickle down to our families and how we interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the campaign Barack Obama talked about the critical role and responsibilities of parents in the lives of their children; Education wasn’t just about improving our schools, but also about our responsibilities as parents. Perhaps his lacking the presence of a father in his own life contributed to his strong paternal instincts as a dad, community leader, and now president. Hopefully, he will continue to serve as a role model who demonstrates the human qualities that we aspire to achieve in our children and ourselves.

While the challenges seem daunting and the expectations may be unrealistically high, it seems that everyone is rooting for our new president. Hopefully he will continue to inspire and move us all to be better stewards of our planet and neighbors to each other. His ultimate success may not be based on his accomplishments but more a function of what he inspires us to collectively do.

Whether we agree with him or not politically, we can all learn from Barack Obama. We can all reflect on our personal values, how we treat one another, how we parent and what we can do to make a difference. He reminds us of the things that we most value in our selves and others. And that’s always a good thing.