Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Remaking America

Two entries in one day? Wow, that's only happened like 6 times ever. Still, I didn't want the Obama inauguration to pass without a mention.

Due to time zone differences and work-related tasks, I had just barely enough time to head over to the temporary food "tent" at USC to watch the inauguration, roughly from Aretha Franklin's performance (kind of hoping she'd do Freeway of Love) to the Obamas and Bidens walking away from the stage. I chose this venue because of the presence of several big TVs and because I thought I might experience something unique by watching the event with college students and staff, as opposed to watching it alone at my desk.

I was touched by the sincere hopeful applause from the students and the sometimes teary-eyed joy in the eyes of the staff, mostly older adults with long enough memories that made today's event an impossibly huge one. I was impressed with Obama's speech. If the man can deliver on his plans, intentions, and hopes as well as he delivered his words today, then all will be better in America.

I was moved by the inclusion of his middle name "Hussein" during the actual oath. I'm sure this was his decision, one that went against the expectations on NPR this morning that he would be sworn in as Barack H. Obama. Who cares if anyone feels discomfort at his "scary" sounding middle name? It's his name and it's part of who he is. I have relatives with the same middle name and I wouldn't want them to have to initialize, just to make others feel more comfortable.

I was impressed with the crowds - both those on the mall in Washington, at least one of whom was a Facebook friend (Hi Keesha) and those in the food tent, most of whom were attentive, reflective college students with faces that projected sheer hope and joy. Yes my place of employment has a (mostly false) reputation for being full of rich conservative kids of privilege. But I've truly never noticed that.

I agree with our new president that America needs to be remade, can be remade, and will be remade. These last eight years have pretty much sucked and the eight years before that weren't as great as people remember. We need to remake ourselves in the world, yes. But we need to remake ourselves right here, to create a new energy-based economy that creates jobs and saves a planet in need of saving, and to build a society where public service provides inspiration and equality for all (including people with middle names like our president's) is an expectation. Regarding public service, maybe previous presidents painted homeless shelters in D.C. the day before their inaugurations but I think it meant more yesterday than ever before.

Compared to earlier times, it's a scary time to live in America. It's scary to live in a time of debt and foreclosure (I can attest to the debt part.) It's scary to live in a world where hate is alive and nuclear weapons are not as unattainable as they used to be. But it's so much less scary to have Barack Obama as president than the last guy so there's some hope.

1 comment:

Jason B. said...


I'd just like to add - I still can't believe it. I can't believe it. I can't believe we don't have to look at that other guy anymore. There was a period during 2006 or 2007 when the war was going so badly, homes were being foreclosed, and, you know, hurricane and shotgun and everything, but before the elections or primaries were starting, there was a period when it felt like this guy had been in the white house forever and he couldn't ever leave. Pinch me.