Matthews: Obama needs to ‘set the mood’ for his time


In September, President Obama gave us a wisp of glory, quoting from Kennedy’s most uplifting words, the American University speech of June 1963, saying, “The problems of man are man-made; they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable-and we believe they can do it again.”

That powerful American pledge of confidence is what this president needs to give us and he needs to give us evidence to support it, to give it life. 

Where Kennedy could point to the success of the U.S. space program, this President could be pushing such successes as the stunningly unexpected turnaround in the U.S. auto industry.

Oh yes, and he should brag about them not as Obama achievements but American successes.  He didn’t do them; America did.

This attitude of hope could work well today; for the simple reason that we need it to. It is a strength Obama can draw from Kennedy, from those days of blue-skies ambition. Every victory can be emotional ammo for the next challenge. American leaders can still tap into something powerful- – the astonishing optimism, the can-do resilience of the American people.

Fifty-seven percent of us recently told pollsters that “as Americans, we can always find ways to solve our problems and get what we want.” Always.

This is the firm ground of innate American can-do attitude on which an American leader can take us out of the doldrums. But he, first, must believe it.

A president sets the mood for his time. We saw what Kennedy did in taking us to the moon, sending young Americans around the globe in the Peace Corps, putting the American presidency on the side of civil rights.  It was can-do time because we had a can-do president.  We need one again.

Barack Obama

Matthews: Obama needs to 'set the mood' for his time