It happened. It finally happened. Barack Obama became our 44th President yesterday and, contrary to the dire warnings of the “rightest” of the right wing, scads of terrorists did not descend on the US to take over, the new President did not declare our nation to be a socialist republic, and we were not overrun by human-animal hybrids.
For me, the day began by setting up my DVD player to record the inauguration just in case I didn’t get to watch at school. I went there not knowing what the students’ frame of mind would be. My school is about 55% African-American, and when Barack was elected, it was joyous pandemonium the day after. What would the scene be like this day?
I arrived and signed in at the teachers’ lounge. There was buzz going through the teachers as they got ready for the day. “I am so excited!” one teacher exclaimed as she walked past me. I smiled to myself, feeling the electricity and cinfident that this would be a day to remember.
I plugged up the television in our theatre, and another teacher and I brought our classes in to watch the proceedings. It’s not often you get to see history unfold before you without it being a tragedy or travesty. Most were attentive, but some seemed oblivious to the wonderful thing happening on screen. Much as my partner and I tried to keep them riveted, we soon realized it was a choice they could only make themselves.
As the appointed hour approached, however, the students’ attention began to focus on the day’s proceedings. Dick Cheney was wheeled out, having wrenched his back during the move out of his offices, and my partner and I could not figure out if he looked more like Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life” or Dr. Strangelove. Rick Warren gave the invocation, and I thought it was surprisingly civil. Aretha Franklin sang “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”, and students were either enthralled by her voice or snarking on her hat selection. A couple did both.
After Joe Biden’s oath and a less-than-thrilling John Williams version of “Simple Gifts” (bah! I like Copland’s better!), it was time for the moment I had waited for for the past years, and the moment I had eagerly anticipated for the last year. Barack Obama raised his right hand, placed his left on the Bible Abraham Lincoln (whose 200th birth anniversary is this year) used in his inaugurations, and recited the oath of office. Both he and Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled a bit at the beginning, but we can give them some slack. After all, this was a first time for both men, and each should get one more chance to say it before a crowd.
It ended, as it had 69 times previously
, with the words “so help me God.” The difference this time, however, was the roar that came from millions of citizens standing in the cold to see history in the making. The estimates I heard numbered at over 2 million, but when you see crowds on satellite
in such masses, it is not hard to imagine that even MORE than that crowded the mall for this occasion.
In our theatre, too, a cheer of approval went up from the students as President Obama acknowledged the crowd. I cried as I smiled. Four hundred years of struggle and progress had led to this moment for African-Americans, and for Americans of all stripes. Maybe some of the kids didn’t fully get the significance of today, but decades from now they will be telling their children of when they herded into a theatre auditorium in Georgia to see the first black man become president.
1) When I picked up little Ian from his daycare, I saw that they had put together a bulletin board with pictures of President Obama. I pointed at one and asked him “Who is that?” He answered in his halting four-year old voice “That is the first Pwesident.” “What’s his name?” “Bawack Ofama.” I laughed and then thought, for him this will be the first president he has memories of. I was born during the Johnson administration, but in my mind, the first President I have memories of is Nixon. I think the Buddy got the sweet end on that deal.
2) As I was driving to pick him up, I switched on Hannity’s radio show to see how he was taking it. Aside from his claims of being in the “conservative underground” (Pffft!) he had on Ann Coulter to talk about the election. I only heard two sentences from the JTSF “I don’t want to hear any more about blacks being denied service at lunch counters. That didn’t happen during MY lifetime.” before I turned off the radio. I almost got angry before I realized, this was the death rattle of a T-Rex; a T-Rex that feeds on publicity and outrage. Instead I just laughed at her ridiculous thrashing and drove on, towards the future and hope.
To the Obama years. May they be healing and happy.