How many reflections on life today crowd into that comparison?
Words are easier than deeds. As admirable as the spirit and pronouncements of the new Pontiff are, he dwells in symbolism, aspiration and hope, a realm Obama occupied five years ago when he was chosen Person of the Year for 2008 before moving into the White House.
Power corrupts but absolute power can be liberating. In the Vatican, Francis I reigns supreme and, with dazzling humility, sets a new tone for the Catholic Church. In Washington, the new President encountered a cockpit of hate to be thwarted at every turn into five years of political impotence.
To err is human and forgive divine but not in politics. Francis I tells an anxious world that sins of selfishness can be overcome by modesty and love of fellow humans while Obama is pummeled for attempting to save people from suffering and death with an imperfect solution, originally prompted in large part by wall-to-wall political opposition.
Time Magazine can exalt but time itself diminishes. Francis I occupies a magazine cover in his first months on the world stage. As he moves into making pronouncements and decisions about issues that have racked the Catholic Church for years, will near-universal admiration survive? Barack Obama can tell him all about loss of faith by fervent admirers.
Human hope never dies. Even at the low point of his tenure, the President can glimpse some daylight in a bipartisan budget deal that the House will vote on tomorrow. Miracles may never cease.
For the New Year those imbued by good feeling can only wish Persons of the Year past and present the best of luck in their spiritual and mortal endeavors on behalf of us all.