Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

My musings on the Inauguration:

Interesting that Obama , a biracial man, is referred to as “black.” He is equally white. Yes, I know that traditionally a person with at least 1/64th (I think that’s right) black ancestry is considered black, but doesn’t that seem foolish? If I am 1/64th Russian and 63/64ths Polynesian, does that make me Russian? I don’t know, it seems a silly distinction. Rather than our color perhaps we should be recognized by our cultural heritage – all of it.

None of that, however, diminishes the significance of today’s events. I’m sure every inaugural speech, each changing of the executive guard, brings renewed hope and optimism, but there was something special about today. We are looking at a rather bleak economical forecast, we are involved in an unpopular war, many of us are left feeling let down and betrayed by the outgoing administration. Yet the support and enthusiasm of the crowd seems more than just the renewed hope that comes with a new administration.

As I watched the live feed of the Obamas attending a church service this morning, and again later during the invocation and benediction of the swearing-in ceremony, I wondered… what if an incoming President’s religion – or lack thereof – ran counter to those traditions? What if an incoming President believed – as I think we should seriously consider – that the separation of church and state needs to be honored and therefore chose not to include any religious observances as a part of the inauguration?

The following paragraphs were, to me, the most memorable part of the address:

“…We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Obama reminds us of our heritage, our forefathers’ dreams, and the cultural diversity in our country and our world. He tells us not to forget where we come from, and where we are going. He challenges us to respond to the needs, to be open to the cultures, of peoples all over the world.

One other thing that impresses me is Obama’s charge for us to renew our commitment to volunteering through his “Renew America Together” campaign. As its home page says (http://www.usaservice.org) “President Obama believes each of us, as Americans, have a responsibility to do what we can for our communities and fellow citizens. We are one nation.” I was unaware that MLK Day was supposed to be a national day of community service and I commend Obama for reminding us of our responsibility as caring citizens.

I hope – I fervently hope – that when the excitement and celebration has waned and President Obama hunkers down to the job ahead of him, he remembers his words and does his damndest to live up to them.

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