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
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