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Reflections of the Inauguration of President Obama
Edwin C. Marshall, Vice President
On January 20, 2009, people from all over the world converged on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to bear witness to the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. I was extremely fortunate to have been one of those who exercised the opportunity to be present and experience first hand a day in which millions of men, women, children, family, friends, and strangers came together under one calling to share the joy of celebration. It was a day of tremendous emotion, charged with electricity and anticipation of what is to come.
For those who journeyed from across town and across the globe to brave the harsh elements of a freezing dawn and an equally frigid morning, it was a day of transformation and renewal. The National Mall reflected the multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic, and intergenerational mosaic of a "common humanity." Some cried while others danced, some prayed while others chanted, some sat while many stood, but everyone found comfort in the harmony of spirit and the community of fellowship.
From the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the Capitol, the day of President Obama's swearing-in was a day for the nation, it was a day that culminated in a pilgrimage of the elderly who may have needed a cane or walker to brace their every step, of young children who may have walked hand-in-hand with their parents or relied on the stability of a father's shoulder to carry them the distance, or of school children from Indiana and other states who dared to venture for the first time outside of their state boundaries to be a witness to history.
For me, the inauguration ranks high among the most significant events of my life. The cry of "Yes, we can" provides a promise of hope for a brighter future for me, my parents, my children, and for the everyday lives of everyday people. In the words of President Obama:
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
On the day after the national celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the inauguration signaled the launch of what should be a defining era in our nation's history. Symbolic of unprecedented change, the world acknowledged and embraced the coming of the first African American President of the United States of America.
But it was much more than symbolic in terms of what President Obama may be able to accomplish relative to the socio-economic and political crises that we face in employment, education, health care, energy, and foreign affairs. He has set forth an aggressive agenda for action:
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
The Obama presidency has reached out across political boundaries, generational constructs, cultural foundations, and international ideologies to coalesce a global society in transparent diplomacy for the common good and with the philosophy that "ordinary people can still do extraordinary things."
The guiding beliefs of President Obama derive from the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Mahatma Gandhi in that each of us has a responsibility to be an agent of the change that we want to see in the world. My personal take away from that cold day in January was that we can and we did, but that was just the beginning. The foundation for change has been laid, but each one of us that may have gathered on the mall, watched on television or streaming video, listened on the radio, or otherwise vicariously joined in the moment must continue to do our part in sustaining the belief of hope and the will of spirit to help make this nation and this world a better place for all.
Revised: February 4, 2009
Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs