On January 20, 2009, it dawned cold but sunny in our nation’s capital. It was a new day, a day of hope for millions attending the ceremony in Washington, DC and for those watching around the country and, indeed, the world.
It was a day of history as the first African-American in our country’s 234 years raised his right hand, placed his left hand on the exact bible Abe Lincoln had used 148 years before, and was sworn in as president.
As is customary and in accordance with Article II, Section I of the Constitution of the United States with each new President, Barack Obama stood at the podium accompanied by his wife, Michele, and daughters Malia and Sasha, at the base of the Capital steps to recite this oath: “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God!” This was done at precisely 1205 hours, administered by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr. At the completion of the oath, the nation had a new President, the 44th in our history.
On a cold day in February 2007 in the town square of the small village of Springfield, Illinois, Barack Obama, then a young 45-year-old, declared his candidacy. He stated on that day “It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people – where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America… And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America…”
It has been a long and improbable journey to this day. Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for President. She was essentially ordained to win the nomination and there was little hope for a black man from Chicago to beat her. It was assumed it was only a dry run for him by most all pundits. How could a young upstart – a black upstart at that – with little experience at the national level defeat the daunting and powerful ‘Clinton Machine’? ‘An impossible quest’ was the estimation of most who knew politics and national elections.
However, fate and a troubled populace led to his eventual victory. It could be attributed to candidate Obama his uncanny and convincing ability to communicate at an extraordinary level, raise grass roots money to an astonishing degree, and assuage a people angry at Washington politics who wanted ‘change’ which Barack promised them.
On November 4th, 2008, Barack Obama carried the election in an astounding defeat of his Republican rival, Senator John McCain. The people had spoken; they wanted a change and they voted for it. Barack Obama would be the next President by popular acclamation.
The Inaugural was attended by the largest number of people ever, a joyous crowd estimated at between one and two million. A sense of euphoria prevailed, a mindset that better times were ahead, an atmosphere of hope and renewed faith in our country and its elected officials precipitated by the confidence and calming presence of the man who had beat all odds along the way. He had never wavered and had never lost his conviction in his ability to win an election with the intent of bringing a new and refreshing change to our national government. Today he was the symbol of all things good in our nation.
As expected, Barack Obama gave a speech unequaled in its reception in modern days. In it he stated, in part, “My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors…On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord…Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America…We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you…For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.”
The new President ended with “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
The arduous work must now begin anew. It will be a difficult road ahead as we find ourselves in trying times – a difficult economic situation, two wars abroad, and a world perhaps more uncertain than any time in modern history. Barack Obama, President, must now endeavor to fulfill his campaign promises, make the difficult decisions, and lead us into a new era of peace and prosperity.
May God bless President Obama and our nation.
Post script: As the new President was signing the official documents proclaiming him President and Commander-in-Chief, the 43rd President, George W. Bush, was leaving Washington, DC. He flew to Andrews Air Force base on Executive 1, the Presidential helicopter normally named Marine 1, for a flight over Washington, DC and a last pass over the White House. There he boarded an airplane to Midland, Texas. It was no longer Air Force 1 as that designation is only for the President of the United States.