Hope and hu­mil­ity

Michelle Obama shows her time as first lady has taught her nei­ther

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

For­mer Repub­li­can Sen. Alan Simp­son of Wy­oming once said, “Those who travel the high road of hu­mil­ity will not be trou­bled by heavy traf­fic.” That de­scrip­tive and funny line came to mind af­ter I heard what first lady Michelle Obama told Oprah Win­frey last week in a TV in­ter­view. Be­cause of Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, she told the for­mer talk show host, “We are feel­ing what not hav­ing hope feels like.”

She couldn’t prove that by the polls. A re­cent Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll found that 59 per­cent of vot­ers are “op­ti­mistic about the next four years with Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent.” Sixty-six per­cent of re­spon­dents said they be­lieved he would cre­ate jobs, 52 per­cent said they be­lieve Mr. Trump’s poli­cies will help the econ­omy, 53 per­cent ex­pressed con­fi­dence he will take the coun­try in the right di­rec­tion, and 49 per­cent think Mr. Trump will be ei­ther a “great” pres­i­dent or a “good” pres­i­dent.

Michelle Obama’s hubris that only her hus­band could pro­vide hope, de­spite the un­pop­u­lar­ity of his poli­cies (his per­sonal pop­u­lar­ity re­mains high), may be why St. Paul cau­tioned: “Do not think more highly of your­self than you ought.” (Ro­mans 12:3). Pride is the first sin, which leads to all oth­ers.

Any­one who puts faith in a politi­cian to make his or her life bet­ter is wor­ship­ping a false god. Politi­cians can make your life worse by over­tax­ing your in­come, over­reg­u­lat­ing your busi­ness and con­duct­ing for­eign pol­icy in ways that put Amer­ica’s se­cu­rity at risk, but the qual­i­ties that im­prove any life — a good ed­u­ca­tion, strong work ethic, self-con­trol, tak­ing per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for one’s ac­tions, obey­ing the law, de­vel­op­ing good char­ac­ter — these are virtues over which govern­ment has lit­tle in­flu­ence.

Politi­cians pro­mote faith in them­selves be­cause it helps their ca­reers and feeds their egos. When was the last time you heard a politi­cian say only you can make your life bet­ter by the choices you make? Have you ever heard a politi­cian say, “We are clear­ing the field of lib­erty as much as we can so that you have the best op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed at what­ever you be­lieve your gifts qual­ify you for”?

If politi­cians started talk­ing like that peo­ple might have more faith in them­selves and politi­cians would see their in­flu­ence and power de­cline sig­nif­i­cantly.

Peo­ple hope for many things. Some peo­ple hope to win the lot­tery; oth­ers choose to hope in some­one, or some­thing, that can ac­tu­ally de­liver. Hop­ing to win the lot­tery, or hop­ing a politi­cian can im­prove your life, is a vain hope that can lead to dis­ap­point­ment, even cyn­i­cism.

A friend of mine once ob­served that hu­mil­ity is so light a grace that once you think you have at­tained it, you’ve lost it. Hu­mil­ity is the po­lar op­po­site of what Michelle Obama dis­played to Oprah and what the pres­i­dent has mir­rored dur­ing his eight years in of­fice. Through­out his pres­i­dency, you might have thought the pro­noun “I” was his first ini­tial for all the times he re­ferred to him­self.

The Oba­mas could have of­fered real hope, es­pe­cially in the hearts of African-Amer­i­can chil­dren, by lead­ing the poor among them out of fail­ing in­ner-city schools and giv­ing their par­ents a choice of where to send them for a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, which would have led to a bet­ter life. They rightly sent their daugh­ters to elite pri­vate schools, rather than bad D.C. pub­lic schools, but de­nied that choice to those less af­flu­ent, thus per­pet­u­at­ing a spirit of hope­less­ness in those vot­ers who had hoped for some­thing be­yond a “let’s move” ex­er­cise pro­gram and a veg­etable gar­den on the White House lawn.

Politi­cians pro­mote faith in them­selves be­cause it helps their ca­reers and feeds their egos.

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