Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Setting politics aside to savor a seminal moment

It started like any other morning. The TV was turned on as I was going through the daily routine. Then everything changed. As expected the news coverage was all over the upcoming inauguration, only this time the electricity was more real and organic and less manufactured. I was instantly captivated and enthralled. A sudden anticipation enveloped me that can only be described as the giddy feelings that precede the rush down the stairs on Christmas morning or the hours before departing on your dream vacation. I dropped my morning work plans and started to anxiously pace around the living room listening and watching the coverage.

Is this odd? I didn't vote for Mr. Obama. Most of my political views do not correspond with what he proposed on the campaign trail. I still have my doubts about his ability to live up to the "messiah-like" expectations that the media and country have placed upon his shoulders. I wonder about the direction that he will take this country. But.....this morning none of that mattered. The traditional partisan spirit was suspended, at least temporarily, and we- the whole Nation- was experiencing a rare and incredibly positive moment together.

The feelings felt this morning transcend one person, narrow ideologies, or the Washington DC that we are normally fed on the evening news. The pride and humility felt this morning were based on a system of government that has stood the test of time. The feeling that knowing that your nation doesn't rest on one person or party; knowing that this system still is able to work despite the chaos that swirls around. I know that the rest of the world watched in envy as a deeply divided and bruised country came together to peacefully and seamlessly pass the torch of leadership on to a new regime.

It was a collectively cathartic moment for the nation as we saw President Bush welcome President Obama to the White House. At this moment there was no rancor but only a sense that we can appreciate a nation that can have two very different people at its helm. I really feel that both men have our best interests at heart. We have been given the great gift to start anew, a tabula rasa that can effectively destroy the partisan gridlock that is endemic in DC and get people working towards solutions and not payoffs. There is a palpable sense of goodwill and both sides need to seize it and move towards solutions that are less motivated by polls and interest groups.

There were also some incredibly candid and humanizing moments. I was amused when I saw Bush Sr. slap a Marine as he walked by him. I smiled when President Obama stumbled in repeating the Oath of Office. Our system is what is to be lauded and what is to be eternal. We are merely stewards to these noble ideals....and we are mortals and prone to human mistakes. Through it all there were smiles all around. Even President Obama was able to chuckle at his mistakes in following the incredibly formal protocol.

The speech was brillant. It addressed our current struggles but wasn't mired in policy detail. It was conveyed with the calm confidence that got this man elected. It spoke of unity and was driven with a strong sense of purpose. He spoke of the strides this country has made regarding the Civil Rights movement without making his speech and candidacy be solely about Civil Rights. He is bigger then one group or cause.

After the speech more formality and procedures. It seems like we have enough strange traditions and protocols to make ancient Rome look like a backyard barbecue. Quirky? Yes! But I'm glad we have these traditions. They are reminders of what we have come from. They should keep us grounded.

I had to get back to work and my day to day responsibilities. But I am forever grateful that I took the time to witness this event. I am once again reminded of the absolute blessing it is to live in this great nation. That in spite of all that divides us there is still a very strong common thread that keeps us together. We are a great nation and it is time for us to wake up again and reclaim our potential.

Transcript of Inaugural Speech


Jeffers said...

I too watched most of the coverage this morning and was proud to see our system working. Despite my deep reservations about President Obama, I was able to look past him and simply see our democracy at work. Regardless of what happens, that system will remain in place.

I thought his speech was only sub-par. I agreed with some sentiments and strongly disagreed with others, but overall it didn't provide any sweeping one-liners. I shuddered when he spoke of individuals in sweat houses working for the country, mainly because Lenin and Mao used the same analogy and words on their own people. Last I checked, those people are there for their families to put bread on the table, not on the country's table. I wasn't alone on that one, several criticisms of his speech afterwards focused on that comment.

I also thought his jabs at President Bush were unwarranted and, quite frankly, blatantly hypocritical from a man who in the very same speech asks others what he himself isn't willing to give--bipartisanship. It also showed his naivete at actually being a leader--namely, if he thinks Bush put off making any hard decisions and, simply, didn't make any, he has a lot to learn about sending troops into war. Does he really think Bush's presidency was easy? Did Bush not actually make a hard choice?

Lastly, I'm glad I collected vomit bags whenever I flew on a plane as a kid because that collection is coming in handy now whenever I hear Barack Obama compared to Abraham Lincoln. The differences are plain to everyone, yet the purported similarities between them require significant skewing to actually fall within the real of similarity. And we're talking serious skewing, the kind that could legitimize ANY comparison between ANY president, i.e. "He did what he thought was best for the country." Well doesn't that about cover all 44? Sorry, but comparing the most liberal representative of the Democratic party to the father of the Republican party, a party which since its inception by Lincoln has been the oppostion party to the one now represented by Obama, is simply sickening.

But I digress. Overall, I enjoyed the ceremony of our democracy at work. My hope for Obama to succeed is great, but my faith in his ability to do so is weak. Universal health care is nothing but veiled socialism. Health care is important, but it's not the responsibility of the Federal Government. It's a 100% domestic issue that should be left to the states, but I forget that Democrats are about more government intrusion into individual lives as well as the erosion of that power at the state level. Perhaps Obama will trample on the people of Utah as Clinton did when he decides to disregard the opinion of 84% of Utahns when he institutes a ban on drilling for oil shale in our own state despite the desire of Utahns to drill. Don't give me any crap about him caring more about our state then we do. Ha! And I thought the constitution he swore to uphold began "We the People." So who does he work for? Who does he represent?

Yikes. Enough for now. All my pent up thoughts of the day just came flooding out. We live in a great country, and have had many great Presidents. One just left office today, and hopefully one more just entered.

Norm said...

Jense, I agree with your comment that other nations look on a day like this with envy. Ballets, not bullets govern our country. The outgoing president embraces the incoming. A peaceful and seamless transition.

A great day for America.

And about Obama. I think McCain would be the better president but I think Obama is what our country needs right now. He comes at a liberal price and (I don't think he's worth it) but across university campuses students are wearing shirts with our president's face on it. At the Austrailian Open American Flags and posters and masks of Obama's face are everywhere. My sister just got back from Chile and she says they absolutely love Obama. The world loves our president. That is a good thing.

Rick Otterstrom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Otterstrom said...

I hope that obama can benefit the country. Perhaps the current unity the country feels will help with some of the choices that need to be made, but then, the unity after 9/11 didn't last all that long before we began pulling apart and berating the president. It worries me that obama has already started to weaken our stand against terrorism. If you look at the Russian invasion of Afghanastan, and what has happened in Russia after, you see the importance of staying in the mid-east. They fought Russia in Afghanastan until Russia left, then they took it to Russia. When we leave Iraq, they will, too. Beslan was, according to bin laden, "a dress rehearsal for what will happen to America." I wonder if that will become part of obama's legacy. I hope not!

As for the comment about other countries loving obama, most do. But they don't have to live under him.

I hope he rises to the occasion and does well. My confidence in him is not very high, but I can hope... he's here for 4 years.

Dallas Graham said...

Well said and read, Ryan. I found the momentum behind the emotion something unlike anything else I've personally felt about, especially regarding the sensitive arena of politics.

Coming together. United. This is a very good thing.

Thanks for the post.

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