Today, our historic election becomes our historic inauguration. Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He gave a well-tempered speech, and one that spoke deeply to A. and myself1, one that stirred more than a few emotions and (hopefully) more than a few into action.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was asking people in the crowd in The Mall last night: What are your hopes for Obama’s presidency? Had he called upon me for an answer, I would have said that my hope is that the momentum Obama has built up these past few months doesn’t fade. That somehow, through all of the rough times still ahead of us, that people do not lose sight of the message. I hope that people are still excited, still motivated, still willing to make sacrifices and think creatively with a mind toward a better future — that the inspiration this historic event fills them with now, is still with them in a year.
Two other thoughts on the past twenty-four hours or so:
- Chris Matthews kept calling D.C. “integrated” last night. The word bothers me in a big way. It isn’t that I believe he meant anything disparaging by it — not in the least. But I think the word itself is evocative of segregation and the racism tied into that. Granted, maybe he was invoking it for exactly that reason, to connote this historic inaugural as the ultimate triumph over that malign period in our history. But if that’s the case, then “integration” seems to carry additional connotations. Again, perhaps that’s exactly what Matthews intended: link the occasions, follow Obama’s lead and point right at the great white elephant in the room. But didn’t seem like the right word to me, it came off as sloppy and ill-aligned with the ebullient mood he (and others) were trying to portray. So what was the right word? Try: concordant, mellifluous, or unified.
- Speaking of integration: my father spoke briefly last night about what this inauguration meant to him. He began high school in North Carolina2 during the first year of integration there. He said that there was a palpable tension. Not that there was imminent violence or a disturbed sense of safety — nothing like that, nothing out of the ordinary for a bunch of high school kids, at least. But (in his words) “all the white kids sat on one side of the room, and all the black kids on the other”. As the year progressed, that lessened a bit. Sports (he said) went a long way in getting individuals to see each other in a different light, in earning each others’ respect. In many ways, this seemed to him to be a lot like that first year. Only, looking at pictures of those crowds on The Mall, it seems that we are already a little past that first day of class where everyone sits together on opposite sides of the room.
And now, the work begins.
- And not just because he mentioned Science by name. [↩]
- Moving in from elsewhere; you know how those Air Force kids bounce around. [↩]