High Hopes


January 20, 1993|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- What a pity that Sammy Cahn, the marvelous lyricist, should die just before this day of inaugural of a new American president. ''High hopes'' are indeed the driving force of what most Americans see as a new political beginning. As we watch today's transfer of awesome power, we would do well to say aloud what our high hopes are. I will say that:

* Americans hope fervently for economic revival of a sort that will restore their sense of economic well-being. Let the economists argue about deficit reduction; the ordinary American wants freedom from the fear of layoffs, bankruptcies, mortgage foreclosures and a never-expected reliance on welfare and food stamps. Millions of high hopes will be --ed if, a year from now, the overall unemployment rate is still above 7 per cent, and black teen-age joblessness is still at 40 per cent or more. These figures are indicators of both economic despair and social sickness.

* Thoughtful Americans have high hopes that we can rise above the spirit of violence that permeates race relations within America and our foreign policies almost everywhere. Just before leaving for Dallas and his death, John F. Kennedy told me that a president had a duty to inspire the American people to be better than they thought they could be, not to provoke them to be as mean as they wanted to be. Millions of people hope passionately that Bill Clinton will use his ''bully pulpit'' to lead Americans away from nation- destroying racial polarization and ethnic and class warfare.

As for the world at large, there are high hopes held by what unfortunately seems to be a minority of Americans that the United States can by example, diplomacy and moral leadership push the world toward peace more effectively than it can by launching 10,000 cruise missiles.

* Hopes are so high for a new level of government care for our children that the risk of disillusionment is great. We see Americans believing again that we can really educate all our children -- yes, even the poor, minority youngsters that the last two administrations treated as ''uneducable'' and surely expendable.

Even in a time of crippling budget deficits and a cynical campaign for federal ''school choice'' vouchers, I find many Americans believing that more federal funds will be allocated to equalize opportunities in public schools. I see rising hopes that government will move to restore the strength of families, as a key to easing the curses of teen-agers impregnating teen-agers, teen males killing each other, teens abusing alcohol and drugs -- all this impacting terribly upon rates of divorce, AIDS, prison populations and more.

These ''high hopes'' become both a challenge and a burden to a new president who isn't yet sure where the White House toilets are located.

Yet, it is proper that we say goodbye to Sammy Cahn and welcome to Bill Clinton by singing: ''We've got High Hopes . . . High Hopes. . . ..''

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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