There's something in the air: Super Tuesday. I haven't seen as much interest around a primary election in a long time. Despite the experiences of defeat around issues so important to my low-income community - the fear of recession, the dragged out Iraq war and the billions of dollars diverted for war that we need spent on improving the health and future of our youth - there is an tangible sense of hope and possibilities. As Caroline Kennedy told of her own experience, youth are speaking out to their parents about the future, about the candidates, and getting involved. There will be change in whoever becomes president, and that gives us hope for a new direction for the country, especially in how we spend our money. Remember the "budget are moral documents" efforts?
Having a sense of future is so important, especially in a low-income community. Children's Defense Fund documents that the single most influential factor in reducing teenage pregnancy is youth having a sense of future. A sense of possibilities other than the one-way train to prison is so critical for the young men hanging out of our street corners. But we can't afford to dash the hope and sense of future with false promises. It will be difficult for any president to turn around our war-mongering, our selfish claims to tax relief when others are left out, and our inadequate public education. There are forces that will push the other direction. But, as the saying goes, "Now is the time, and we are the ones we've been waiting for." We have a chance to make a difference.
Cornell West spoke last night, reminding us that we must work hard for our candidate, celebrate victories without rancor, and then take up the task of prophets of old, holding presidents and others accountable to God's justice.
Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.