INAUGURATION. What can one say about a moment in history as it happens? That is the question I had to ask myself. There really isn’t much to say yet. We haven’t seen what the Obama catalyst is really going to do to for our country, but there’s hope.
It all was kicked off with the "We Are One" concert on Sunday. The concert consisted of speakers from Jack Black to Denzel Washington and performers including The Boss, Stevie Wonder, and Garth Brooks. Every capable location was utilized as a vantage point in hopes to get a better view than the numerous Jumbotrons.
One can only imagine what Bruce Springsteen saw as he stood in front of that memorial with a choir at his back and he sang to the millions who were one. Trees were filled with adults and children and resembling the masses on top a train in India, the Porta-Potties gave a new meaning to sitting on the john.
At the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the mass of Americans reflected on the history of that place. All the people who had once been unified and all the hopes and dreams that have been voiced were relived. Queen Latifah said, “Through the decades those looking for the meaning of America have gathered here.”
There was no looking. It may not be able to be defined by words, but everyone who stood around that reflecting pool knew exactly what it meant to be America.
As Barack Obama himself stated, “Welcome to this celebration of American renewal.” It very much felt like it was. “And yet, as I stand here tonight, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between.”
Obama’s words received a constant confirmation of applause. Overall, the key point of all the speakers and performers was a reminder of that golden rule of this country: Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
The morning of Inauguration was a cold one. Millions had gathered early along the mall -- 1.8 million is the estimate. The crowd stretched for the first time from the steps of the Capital to the Lincoln Memorial.
And like something out of March of the Penguins, the crowd huddled together, shoulder to shoulder, waiting hours for the ceremonies to start. There were families old and young, field trips, and friends; everyone that day was a photographer (even if their only camera was their cellphone).
As the members of the House and Senate took their seats the crowd was filled with anticipation. Babies weren’t crying and children weren’t begging to leave already, but everyone waited patiently, ignoring the 18 degree weather.
Things went very much like every other inauguration, if this is like any inauguration before it. Obama was sworn in on the same Bible Abraham Lincoln on which took his first oath of office, and reflected on the similarities between the two. Obama stressed that the crisis before us is a large one, but that America has always faced such crises head on and still will face them with the same courage and tenacity of our forefathers. His powerful speech touched on every concern and fear in the hearts of Americans.
He did not claim victory, but asked for the hand of our enemies in the name of peace. Nor did he blame or criticize, but defined what will be different. “Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end,” Obama said ending his address.
The night followed with celebrations across D.C. and the nation. Of course there were the standard balls filled with tuxedos and debutantes, but a much more interesting event was going on just across the street. Art of Change gathered together D.C. artists and the youth that so strongly backed Obama during his campaign. Works covered all the topics familiar from the years of campaigning. Some captured the moment Obama became President-elect, and others predicted the presidential daughters running Clinton/Obama for 2044.
They were all a celebration. This wasn’t a black tie event, but a fire dancer/creative attire recommended event. It was a celebration of so many things; American things.
This is the marker of the new century. Not Y2K or 9/11, and not even the first black president, but that this nation, as one, takes its first step as a new nation into the future. Whether you were in D.C. or Savannah, we can all say I was there.
I was there when it happened, because from this day on America will be renewed. The world will be renewed.