Hope... or something close
Educators, health care providers and business owners sound off on President Barack Obama’s first year
by Danielle Wallace

As the New Year begins, it is common that we reflect upon the past 12 months. We ask ourselves: What worked? What didn’t? How can I make this year better? But as we embark into 2010, a vast majority of people are turning the magnifying glass towards one man in particular—President Barack Obama.

When he took office one year ago, the country swelled with feelings of hope. Obama’s “can-do” attitude was contagious, and expectations soared. But as the months passed, reality set in when it came to what the president would, could and wanted to accomplish once he walked through the White House doors.

Whether it be health care reform, gay rights, foreign policy or sending our troops into battle, Obama certainly has a lot on his plate. But how Americans feel about the job he is doing can vary greatly depending on who you ask.

Ethel Bott, 60, of Sellersville, is a maternity nurse of 23 years. She says she originally voted for John McCain but was optimistic when Obama took office.

“I was sick of old Washington and looked forward to how his administration might be different,” she says. “Unfortunately that hasn’t come to fruition. I am very disappointed with how he seems to be rushing through health care and making decisions behind closed doors. Regrettably, the president’s lack of experience is becoming evident.”

On the contrary, Carly Muenker, a 27-year-old student registered nurse anesthetist from Conshohocken, admits that she got caught up in the hope that Obama offered her generation, but she understands that changes don’t happen overnight.

“He was handed a big mess before taking office and is just now getting to rummage through everything,” she says. “It is hard to accomplish certain goals, like a public health care option, in four short years.”

She also notes that health care is a huge contributor to the national deficit, but she has confidence that Obama can make the necessary changes to fix it.

Teachers in the area have also sounded off on the president’s first year. Tom Shields, 34, a history professor at Montgomery County Community College, originally voted for Obama because he seemed to represent a more liberal ideology.

“I wasn’t 100 percent behind him at first but still don’t regret my vote,” Shields says. “He is living up to my expectations thus far.” Although Shields is hoping educational funding becomes more of a priority during this administration, he says he understands that change takes time, and he “has faith Obama will rise to the occasion.”

Other than health care, one of the most contentious issues Obama faces is the war on terror. A 30-year-old former Marine living on the Main Line, who chose to remain anonymous, is a current staff member of the Health and Human Services Department, and he has two interesting view points.

“I served this country for six years, reporting to the Commander in Chief,” he says. “So far I believe Obama has made decisions that are in alignment with a decent strategic plan, although only time will tell.”

However, having work experience under two different administrations, this government employee feels that “the more things change, the more they stay the same. Everything in my sector remains business as usual and the president’s liberal plans and promises seem to be on their way out to pasture already.”

Most of us are also feeling the brunt of the economic downturn. Echoing that sentiment is Joe Getz, 28, of Royersford, who was recently slated to take over his father-in-law’s sales business, but will now hold off for a few more years. “Small business owners are responsible for their own retirement savings, and when the stock market crashed that affected our transitional plans,” he explains. “But I do have faith that President Obama can bring about the change needed to meet our country’s expectations, or at least I hope he can.”

Regardless of which side of the fence they may land, it is quite clear that community members’ curiosities are piqued for what’s to come in the remainder of the president’s term.

As for an evaluation of what has taken place over the past 365 days, it seems we must agree to disagree.

Danielle Wallace is a freelance writer in Montgomery County.