Why I Am Watching The Inauguration Ceremony Of Barack Obama

barack-obama-capitolToday I will excuse my class early, and gather my children (taking one of them out of school) around a television to watch the Inauguration, Swearing-In Ceremony of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President Of The United States Of America.

My teenage daughter asked me, in an honest and thoughtful way, why I would feel a need to gather my family to watch the event.

I answered somewhat clumsily, as I find myself only articulate in certain worlds. I am articulate (to my satisfaction) neither in politics nor in world events – I do however, deeply care about the movements of time and their impact on human thinking.

I told her quite simply that while people land all over the map in their feelings about the man as President, no one can deny that this is one of the most stunning social events to ever occur in the United States – or in any human civilization to date. This event should be compared to landing a man on the moon, or the “I Have A Dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 20th century, and to many other catalytic events across the span of human experience.

It marks the “turning of a time,” and we experience precious few of these kinds of moments in any given generation. I told my children that I don’t expect them to be excited to watch the ceremony with me, in their teenage years, nor to always comprehend what is truly important in these regards. This is not because they are incapable (definitely not in the case of my three Starlings), just that their psyches are busy individuating and psychologically navigating the adolescent-come-adult years – while history is a more distant idea.

After the atrocities of slavery spread like a cancer into the newly claimed Americas, and found their foothold in the “New World” while local native communities were trampled underfoot, the nation walked to a slow dirge on its way to an inevitable Civil War. Then, as the destruction of Civil War gave way to slowly changing laws and attitudes (far too slowly – hear Billy Holiday’s Strange Fruit in this past century), the Civil Rights movements led by, among many, MLK, scratched at the walls of bigotry with determined and sacrificial patience.

After the shooting of MLK, a man of peace, and the endless stream of small battles won or lost on busses, streets and in court rooms, societal views began to shift incrementally more than ever before. The Internet and the global city welcomed streams of new ethnic groups into the USA, and the average American began to see many multi-ethnic expressions of its “melting pot” appear in role spanning the arenas of media, politics, local government, education and the arts. We get used to ideas, slowly, over long periods of time and extended generational turns.

Then, a black man becomes the President Of The United States. His name, to an average American, feels more foreign than “standard” in the white community. His extended family is from ethnic roots beyond the standard European stock that has lived in the White House to date. But the shift has occurred. White, Anglo Americans move past ignorances that may have halted them in centuries past, and join with their diverse American family to elect the man.

The glistening in the eyes of young (and old) black Americans is riveting. New heroes are being made before our eyes, yet human heroes who have the capacity to fall and fail.

From slavery, ethnocentricity and murder all the way to tomorrow – this is no small day in the history of the democratic experiment, nor in the civilizations of humankind. This day is a day worth stopping for, and reflecting on.

May it go well for Barack Obama and his family as they carry this weight of responsibility in the world. This is my prayer – come Lord Jesus, and have your way.

On a final note, for those who continually degrade the US, noting its power issues and activities in the world, I simply say “It is in a land built on some of the guiding principles we take for granted in the world that even makes an event like this possible. Either love this country; or live somewhere you can learn to love and serve more. It only takes a few years living in lands where the freedom of speech is silenced, and where you may not choose to better yourself or your family in the world, to make you appreciate the gift of this nation.”I take a step further, and say that I agree with Ronald Regan – democracy, indeed any civilization, is only ever one generation from extinction.

The USA, my homeland, is also a broken land with broken people, but I champion it for this – name many other places in the world where, by democratic vote, such an ethnically divided society with such a dark past related to a people group, could place a President outside of the “ethnic majority” and from that people group in what is one of the most powerful positions (at least regarding popular opinion) in the world – by the shared and democratic vote of its fellow citizens.

Time, measure in centuries and millennia, will tell how good this present decision is for the nation. However, no one can deny that the social win here, for all our black and white and multi-ethnic American brothers and sisters, is massive on an historic scale.

If you’re not planning on watching the ceremony (by choice or non-choice), I encourage you to re-think your decision if you can. It is an historic moment no matter how you see it.

Thanks to Rachel Cooper’s Washington DC Blog for the following info on the ceremony.

Inauguration Swearing-In Ceremony 2009

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009

The oath of office will be administered to the President-elect and the Vice President-elect on the steps of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009 beginning at 11:30 a.m. EST. The ceremony should last just more than one hour. The Presidential Inauguration Committee has announced the official program for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony as follows:

Musical Selections
The United States Marine Band
The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks – Approximate time 11:30 a.m.
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

Invocation
Dr. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA

Musical Selection
Aretha Franklin

Oath of Office Administered to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. – Approximate time 11:46 a.m.
By Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, The Honorable John Paul Stevens

Musical Selection, John Williams, composer/arranger
Itzhak Perlman (Violin), Yo-Yo Ma (Cello), Gabriela Montero (Piano), Anthony McGill (Clarinet)

Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama – Approximate time 11:56 a.m.
By the Chief Justice of the United States, The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Inaugural Address – Approximate Time 12:01 p.m.
The President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama

Poem
Elizabeth Alexander

Benediction
The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

The National Anthem
The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters”

Every person attending the Swearing-in Ceremony on the Capitol Grounds is required to have a ticket, including children (with the exception of infants too young to walk). The tickets are color coded and correspond to a specific section. Ticketed guests must enter the Capitol Grounds through the security entry point designated for their particular section. See a map.

Note: Regarding the picture of Obama above, if anyone has copyright/permissions information on the use of the image for this post, let me know.

Transcript from The New York Times.

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

Here is the video of the Speech on the BBC site.

Following is the transcript of President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions:

PRESIDENT BARACK Thank you. Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…

(APPLAUSE)

… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

(APPLAUSE)

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

(APPLAUSE)

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.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

(APPLAUSE)

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality…

(APPLAUSE)

… and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

MR. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public’s knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

(APPLAUSE)

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

(APPLAUSE)

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

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.”

(APPLAUSE)

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 nonbelievers. 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.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those…

(APPLAUSE)

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

(APPLAUSE)

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

(APPLAUSE)

So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

And God bless the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

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