After experiencing what we all saw on the night of November 4th in Grant Park, I wasn’t too surprised by my emotional reaction to Obama’s Inauguration. Like a lot of other white, middle class Americans, I felt more pride in the old Red, White & Blue than ever before. For the first time in our country’s history, we looked past the color of a man’s skin, and elected the most competent candidate. I suppose that the election of an African-American would have happened eventually, but I’m thrilled that this particular man just happened to be where he was at this time in our history. He appears to possess a serendipitous collection of remarkable qualities that you rarely find in a human being, much less a politician. I’m also extremely gratified by the incredible response around the world to this event. It was as if the whole world was embracing the United States and giving us a collective hug. After the last 8 dreadful years, that gesture was greatly needed and equally appreciated.
In watching all the coverage of the inauguration, the sheer joy being expressed by African-Americans has been immensely pleasurable to watch. I can’t really say why. Maybe I just enjoy watching people who are experiencing such pure love and happiness. It’s almost spiritual in nature. I’m sure that not a single one of those people would have predicted this event as recently as one year ago. As good as Obama was doing in the primaries, I’m sure it was a hope too fragile to consider. I would only remind these Americans that this event in our nation’s history wasn’t just a victory for them. The election of Barack Obama was the ultimate rebuke of politics-as-usual and deals in smoke-filled rooms that never served the people. It was the ‘coming of age’ of a country that has struggled with racial issues in front of the whole world, often living in blatant contradiction of its lofty democratic ideals. Race will remain an issue for the foreseeable future but, as of January 20, 2009, the United States is definitely over the hump. That is something every American, regardless of color, should take great pride in. When Obama said “Yes we can,” his was talking to every single one of us. And the vast majority of us believed him.
Now, the euphoria is beginning wane and we’re all watching carefully as the news reports are coming in about Obama’s first decisions as President. I don’t attribute any magic to this man. He’s smart, but he’s no Merlin. There are no guarantees that he will make perfect decisions in regard to the complex economic crisis we’re facing and the mine-field of international issues. But, the one thing I do feel is that we could not have done any better for ourselves than we did in electing Barack Obama president. In almost every aspect, he is the right man for the job. Pragmatic, flexible, calm, extremely bright and supremely organized in his thinking, I am confident that he will confront the problems we face with consummate skill and deliberation. That’s another feeling I haven’t felt for many years, and I don’t think I’m alone.
While we have to be vigilant and realize that there are no magical solutions to the terrible problems we face as a country, at least we know that a man of tremendous integrity, determination, and intellect is at the helm. Finally.