Commentary: A symbolic meeting

This editorial appeared in The News & Observer.

The swords wielded by Republicans and Democrats in the election have not yet been beaten into plowshares, perhaps, but the first one-on-one meeting between an outgoing president and the incoming one always carries with it a reassurance for the people of the country. Our democracy provides for a civil and orderly transition from one administration to the next, no matter what philosophical difference there are, no matter how tough the campaign that put the successor in place.

So it was yesterday, when President-elect Barack Obama came to the White House, welcomed by President George W. Bush. Behind closed doors, they undoubtedly covered some pressing issues of the day. The president certainly will leave Obama a handwritten note to consider on his first day in the Oval Office – a traditional gesture by recent presidents.

The true outcome of the Obama-Bush meeting won't be apparent for a while, no matter how the two may characterize their conversation yesterday. What's known from history is that President Eisenhower was impressed in his meeting with the incoming John F. Kennedy and that President Carter was not as impressed with President-elect Reagan. But who knows what happens in any given meeting to leave such impressions?

Yesterday was a day unlike some of those other days, however, for one important reason. Barack Obama, the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, will be the first African-American to preside over this Republic. President Bush, in his remarks immediately after the election, took note, with pride, of that significance, as did the man Obama defeated in the election of Nov. 4, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

To read the complete editorial, visit The News & Observer.