Will Washington pass the "10 Year Challenge"?

Reporter's Notebook: "10 Year Challenge"
Reporter's Notebook: "10 Year Challenge" 02:36

A lot can happen in a decade. We compile and lose memories, plus we add 10 more birthday candles to the cake. But when we think about our lives a decade ago, there is more to ponder than simply how we used to look, and what we used to wear.

Like many of you, I spent some time this week in January of 2009. I took the "10 Year Challenge." I posted a picture from 10 years ago and one from more recently. It's not really a challenge to post pictures of yourself on social media; you don't need grappling hooks. It's not that hard to climb Mount Vanity.

A lot has changed in those 10 years. The t-shirt I'm wearing is for a band that no longer exists. The girl I'm holding – my daughter – was recently mistaken for my wife.

Social media usually distracts us with the immediate, but this challenge injects perspective. My notebooks say that 10 years ago I was covering the inauguration of the first African-American president. A snapshot of January 18, 2009 shows that the most popular story on the internet said Republicans were giving the new guy the benefit of the doubt.

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2008 and 2018.

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President Bush called Obama's inauguration "a moment of hope and pride." That snapshot of good relations in Washington looks nothing like today.

Though the story also quoted a congressman from Iowa who said Obama's inauguration meant "Al Qaeda  ... (would be) dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11th." That congressman, Steve King, was sanctioned this week by his Republican colleagues for questioning why terms like "white supremacist" should be considered offensive.

Steve King did not pass the real "10 Year Challenge," which is: Will my actions and words today hold up 10 years from now? And if not, am I purchasing wisdom that will guide the next 10 years? That's the challenge I see in those pictures and it's the challenge for Washington, too. If you took a snapshot of Washington today it would be grim. We hope that the picture in 10 years will be brighter, and that leaders will focus on that picture and not the next tweet or photo-op. Otherwise, they will have failed their challenge.