Can Obama Change Government Policy and Convince Us to Change Ourselves?

''On or about December 1910," Virginia Woolf wrote, "human character changed.'' We can be much more specific: "On November 4, 2008, just after 11 pm Eastern, America changed" (human character remains rather intransigent).

The change was driven by two things: our country's remarkable capacity for regeneration, and Barack Obama's remarkable ability to tap into the better angels of our nature.

You know something extraordinary is happening when even Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Joe Lieberman trip over themselves -- and their hastily discarded invective -- to say nice things about Obama and the "tremendous signal" sent by his election.

Sure, it's easy to see their encomiums as purely tactical attempts not to be on the wrong side of history, but they are more than that. They also demonstrate how certain moments and certain individuals are able to bring the best out in people -- even people who have shown us some of the worst aspects of human character. Because, hard though it may be to accept, the best and the worst reside in each of us, side-by-side.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn put it: "The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart." And the greatest leaders are those who inspire us to reside on the good side of Solzhenitsyn's line.

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