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Mar 31, 1:24 PM EDT

Searching for Teddy Roosevelt 2.0


Political legends are made in times like these.

Every period of upheaval needs a transformational leader. Witness George Washington and the revolutionary generation; Abraham Lincoln and the fight for a nation's soul; John F. Kennedy and his Greatest Generation. We're living in an era of brutal transition not unlike the turn of the last century, when Teddy Roosevelt and fellow Progressive reformers helped lead an anxious nation from the agriculture era to the industrial age.

Will the emerging info-tech era merit a great transitional leader - a TR 2.0?

Bill Clinton astutely saw his potential to be a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt, the president who led Americans across the "bridge to the 21st century." But he was ahead of his time; the vast economic and cultural shift had barely begun during his tenure. To note just one example, the Internet had just 130 sites when Clinton took office and there were virtually no blogs the year he left.

The election of his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, would effectively be a third Clinton term - a chance to be the transitional leader that her husband could not be.

Sen. Clinton would be the nation's first female president, a milestone that turn-of-the-century suffragettes dared not imagine. Barack Obama would be the nation's first black president, another fitting milestone.

Beyond mere "first"-ness, Obama and GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain possess qualities that fit the times - and distinguish them from their rivals. Both cross party lines to solve tough problems. They are relatively candid and authentic. They're not afraid to challenge the status quo. And, like Roosevelt, they ask Americans to serve causes greater than self interest.

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time," Obama tells supporters. "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

History tells us that we, the people, are the source of change. The question is, who will lead us through it?

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