Today was the 57th Presidential Inauguration in the United States of America, marking Barack Obama as the 44th President, assuming the usual convention of making Grover Cleveland's split terms as the 22nd and 24th Presidents. Since I've been nursing a cold since Friday, I've posted a few comments on other blogs and decided the "easy" thing was to unite some of my pithiness all in one place.
While everyone else is wanting to point out the obvious, that Barack Obama is our first African-American President, I also have a somewhat different take.
I was born in 1958. My wife in 1957. My sister in 1955. Mr. Obama? 1961.
When I look at the inauguration, I am seeing my first President who is younger than I am. Three years younger? Those were a big three years in the early 1960s. The last two Presidents were born in 1946 and counted amongst the post-WWII Baby Boomer generation. Obama is on that funny cusp which is either outside or on the edge of the Boomers, and that makes a difference.
A sea change indeed.
The pre-inauguration coverage began a long time ago. Huge interest by many to attend and lots of commentary, impressively including many conservatives who wish Mr. Obama well. After all, in the last few months the country's situation has become dire and even his opponents don't want to trash the United States.
The wall-to-wall coverage has bordered on the syrupy and I can understand why detractors dislike the canonization of Saint Obama before he's ever done anything. But you see, for a lot of people the last eight years have been a very dark times -- and in the last few months the country's situation has become dire and even his most ardent supporters don't want to trash the United States by failing to try to unite all in the attempt to vanquish these problems.
And yet we must acknowledge that about half the country doesn't like the politics of the other half at any given time. And within those halves are divisions and shadings of those politics. Though the elections often show up as Red/Blue decisions, politics is much more a continuous spectrum. Some of the complaints that I see on other blogs is about those who hide something uglier behind their politics and not those whose political views differ. But political differences by themselves? What fun would a democracy be without a choice? (grin)
For those who see the party atmosphere and some of the chants against the 43rd President as childish behavior typical of liberals, I hate to be the voice of reason to point this out and burst your tragic bubble, but people on both sides of the aisle in Congress have put petty childish things ahead of honor, duty and country — and don’t roll your eyes at me, you’re merely proving my point — for a long time. We have to do better.
0 and 35
As soon as they started on the oath of office, there were two stumbles. Obama started in before Chief Justice Roberts was finished, and Roberts got some of the 35 words out of order. I am sure there are conspiracy websites out there already saying that "Barack Obama isn't really the President" or that "he flubbed the oath like he had his fingers crossed so he didn't have to obey the Constitution." Sigh. (1) Barack Obama is the duly elected and inaugurated President of the United States. (2) Regarding obeying the Constitution, don't even try to go there. (grin)
As for Obama jumping the gun, I’m sure I’ve seen oaths given as “I, (state your name),” followed by a pause, then continue, rather than trying to cram a whole lot in that first statement. Maybe this longer form is the way that things get done, but it seems to invite flubs on both sides. And as I recall, there was a flub in Charles’ name at the wedding of Charles and Diana, and it was pointed out that this sort of thing happened all the time and didn't invalid the royal wedding. I’m sure if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States thought that something was going on that was worth worrying about, he would’ve stopped and started over.
...and the view from the Capitol towards the Washington Monument across the Mall -- and you can see the grass. It is not a tragedy, mind you, just a recognition that the Inauguration has come and gone, 43 is on Executive One towards Texas, evil Mr. Potter in his wheelchair has been driven to Virginia, and that once again, that uniquely American institution of the peaceful transition of power by schedule has gone on flawlessly, politics be damned.
This was the first 19th century inauguration that I can recall in my lifetime, back from when such political events were the parties and Super Bowls of their day. The paper yesterday pointed out that one of Lincoln's inaugurations led all others with 1.2 million in attendance. The most recent inaugurals? About a third of a million each. Today? They're talking about some two million. And no, they weren't all liberal Democrats. Or even all Americans. I know that for a fact. Just as I know that both BBC in the U.K. and television in Australia were showing all this live, as well.
This inauguration was Historic.
Despite the cold, the weather was superb. The parade bands outstanding. No one marches a straighter row and column than the United States Marine Corps Band -- no one. And the speech?
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.
It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.
The next four years has begun.