My Heart Was There-
If I died today, it would be with a smile on my face. I could close my eyes for that final time, knowing I would leave behind a world truly changed.
Today’s inauguration was an event so unprecedented it drew millions from across the nation. Onlookers filled every space on the National Mall, too far away to see the change of power first hand, but close enough to say they were present when history was made.
Like my eighty-one year old father, seventy-eight year old mother and most American citizens, I witnessed the moment on television, which did nothing to diminish its power. I couldn’t make the trip; but my son was there, as was my daughter and her husband and my brother and his family; so my heart shared space with the crowd.
The ‘H’ Word-
I was not there in person to see President Obama take his oath of office, and he was, indeed, our legal President before he spoke the words. Our Constitution designated the shift had taken place at 12:01 p. m., a few minutes before the official oath was administered. Feling the emotion of the moment, I arose from my comfortable chair and stood tall as Chief Justice Roberts held Lincoln’s bible to swear in Barrack Hussein Obama as our forty-fourth president of the United States.
He said the ‘H’ word. Charles Gibson had announced that he would be using his full given name earlier that morning. I knew he would say it; still an arduous campaign, with mudslinging over Barack Obama’s middle name had me conditioned to cringe. Then I thought it over and understood it as an offering to America of his total allegiance, all of him, cringe-worthy middle name and all. He had nothing to hide so he held nothing back.
The other ‘H’ Word-
I stood amazed, a feeling that began months before the election. It wasn’t that barrack Obama was a man of color or that he was intelligent, well-educated or even tall. The feeling of amazement that has caught up an entire nation is a thing far more heartfelt.
It’s Hope that calls up tears in the blink of an eye. Its knowing we are living through tough times, yet still believe, as those in the civil rights movement believed, that with Hope we would overcome.
I first felt it last February as I stood in the icy cold, waiting hours to take my place in a crowded Cincinnati arena. I knew nothing of the man we all waited to see, but I’d heard all about his brand of ‘Hope.’ And I saw it that day, in the diversity of faces around me, old and young, White and Black, Asian and Latino. And when I heard Barack Obama speak, I knew it was okay to believe.
Barack Obama’s ‘Hope’ inspired me and so many members of my family to make phone calls, and canvass door to door, to wear campaign buttons and to register as many voters as we could. It inspired some of us to stand in line to vote early and others to rise before the sun to vote on election day. And now he is inspiring us all to do our part for our country.
An African proverb tells us, “If we stand tall, it is because we stand on the backs of those who came before us.” Today Barack Obama took full advantage of that notion. In his inauguration speech he named all Americans keepers of a legacy; and in his eyes glistened the full measure of ‘Hope’ laid out before his country. Our country.
As I listened to Barack Obama speak about “ushering in a new era of peace,” I could hear in his voice the gratitude for those who came before him, not just those African American leaders who paved his way with marches and non-violent protests for equality, but also George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and a centuries of citizens carving out American freedom.
A World Truly Changed-
Justice Roberts made a slight mistake in speaking the oath of office; but it is done. The process is complete; and I’m weeping this very moment for the history we’ve made.
I’m contemplating my one year old grandson and how much his world has changed, even since he was born. I’m thinking how if I should die today, it would be with a peaceful heart, knowing I’d left behind a world truly changed.