Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

I was pretty excited about watching the Presidential inauguration yesterday, even though I watched the coverage on TV instead of in person, and I was mending a pair of shorts while I was watching.

(Yes, you read correctly. I needed to mend a pair of shorts in the middle of winter in Wisconsin where we just emerged from a frigid spell of temperatures of 30 below. And the reason why I needed to mend a pair of shorts in the dead of winter? Well, think about it. You think I'm going to be able to buy new ones off the rack at this time of year?)

Being something of a history junkie, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch a piece of history being made. And whether you agree with Barack Obama's philosophies or not, you've got to admit that the fact this man with an African name and dark skin to match was able to become President of the United States is pretty inspiring. The United States is still a land of opportunity, and it's still a place where people of all races and creeds can belong and contribute.

I was impressed with the way President Obama emphasized our need to work together as a people to put our nation back on track. He recalled the pioneer spirit that built our great nation in the first place, and the ways that so many have worked diligently and sacrificed so much to make this a land of freedom and opportunity. Now greed, laziness, and out-and-out evil have gotten us into some pretty big messes as a people, and those who suffer today are often not even those at fault. But as I listened to President Obama's speech, I felt hopeful that as a people we could turn this nation around--on principles of hard work, sacrifice, and selflessness.

However, my hope diminished quickly. In all of the interviews and news analyses that followed the broadcast on the station I was viewing, the emphasis was not on Obama's speech or on turning the country around or any of that. Instead, people seemed blinded by the fact that we now have a black man as President.

Yes, this is an exciting and inspirational moment for our country. It's the result of the sacrifices and tears of many others who hoped and fought for a brighter future for African-Americans. But it's not the end-all.

No matter what color our President is, we need to unite as a people and work together to turn our country around. We're in the middle of two wars and an unprecedented economic crisis. Schools are failing, health care is a mess, and values and work ethics are going downhill fast. It's time--past time--for us to go to work as a people. It's not time for us to rest on our laurels because of who we managed to vote into office. There's a lot of work for us to do.

And if we will do the work and make the sacrifices, we can do great things. Greater, even, than paving the way for an African-American to become President.


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