On this historical day, it doesn’t matter if you are among the millions packing into the National Mall of Washington or one of millions more of Americans sitting in front of a television set or going about your daily routine on what may be another workday.
On this day, and the days that follow, all of us are part of history.
When Barack Hussein Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States, I will be sitting on hard bench in a court room in Floyd, Virginia, covering a circuit court session for my local newspaper.
I will catch the events of the day later on what will be many reruns of the swearing in and his long-anticipated inaugural address. Today’s inauguration will be the first that I’ve missed in the last quarter-century. During my 23 years in Washington, I took part in every inauguration from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush as a journalist, a political operative or as an influence-peddling head of a political action committee.
But today, 300 miles away from the madness and hoopla, I feel more a part of history than I ever did as a participant in the inauguration of four previous Presidents.
I voted for Barack Obama because I believe that he offered the best hope for bringing America back from the divisive abyss of the past two decades of partisan political pandering that has all but destroyed the country that I love. Like so many others, I share the hope that this man can deliver on his promises of hope and change. He has to. We’re running out of time.
Obama’s inaugural address, I suspect, will be a message of hope tinged with the reality of harder struggles ahead. The many problems that America faces are decades in the making. Bitter partisan politics practiced by a divisive Congress and Presidents from both parties drove a deep chasm into the heart of this nation and bridging that divide will not be easy. Obama will likely warn us that things will get worse before they can get better.
Obama faces a system that thrives on status quo and business as usual. He will be challenged by partisanship, tasked by bitter philosophical differences and hamstrung by those who cannot put their petty squabbles aside and work towards the unity and bipartisanship we need so desperately.
Can he overcome these obstacles? I believe he can. He won’t be able to do it alone. He will need the help of Democrats, Republicans, independents, conservatives, liberals and moderates. The left and the right must learn to work together towards a common good.
The African-American man who puts his hand on the Bible today and swears to uphold the Constitution will make history.
Then it will be up to all of us to help him implement that history.