Suzanne Fields

The president-elect has landed. Like Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama on arriving in Washington headed immediately to the hotel to install his family, where they wait to move first to Blair House and then across the street to the White House. When Lincoln misplaced his bedroom slippers, Henry Willard, proprietor of the Willard Hotel, scurried to find slippers big enough to accommodate Honest Abe. So far as we know, nobody at the Hay-Adams Hotel has had to attend to Obama's cold feet.

Amidst all the speculation about the president-elect's transition priorities, it became clear this week that he puts first things first, and first was seeing that his daughters were ready for their first day in a new school. He's the daddy in chief before commander in chief, after all. Children concentrate the mind on what's up close and personal. Malia and Sasha will remember all their lives the scenes outside the windows of their hotel, watching the crowd below watching for them and observing their classmates trying to get a first look at the newest celebrities about to join them.

The Obama girls, like other girls in the West, are lucky. They could read the latest from Pakistan, where girls their age are forbidden to attend school. Taliban militants in the Swat Valley have banned education for all girls beyond the fourth grade, which disqualifies girl-children like Malia, who is already in the fifth grade. Educating girls, a mullah decreed, is "un-Islamic." While Obama tends the relationship with Pakistan and its contributions to the fight against terrorism, he'll be aware of how repressive the Islamic culture can be in the places where terrorists hide.

The world is watching America for flashes of insight into the power change in Washington, and what they see should inspire. We wrote the first chapters of our history permitting the evil of slavery, but we eliminated it at great cost of blood and bitterness, leading 150 years later to the election of a black president whose children are not relegated to segregated schools.

Historically, the transition time between the election of a president and the inauguration is one of national vulnerability, but Obama can find this interim to be an asset. It gives him time for reflection before he must make judgments about dealing with events over which he has little control. For two more weeks, knee-jerk critics can blame George W. Bush for defending Israel's right to defend itself.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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