Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We the people, bending the arc

Yes, I was privileged to be at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Monday.

Yes, of course, I collected souvenirs: my ticket, my commemorative Metro pass, my "I was there!" button, a few pens to share with family, my refrigerator magnet, and my coffee mug. No T-shirt. Got too many of them, anyway.

Yes, the crowds were....well...crowded. Estimates are between 800,000 and one million. People. In one place.  The Metro was excellent in terms of moving people along. Trains ran about every 2-3 minutes.  The people, however, were very cooperative and polite and festive.

This was the second inauguration of Barack Obama. We were "Fired up! Ready to go!"

The diversity was amazing. Old and young. Mink coats and puff jackets. Tights and Hajibs. Weaves and pony tails. Beards and clean-shaven faces - no matter, mouths and faces were covered with scarfs. African, Afro-Caribbean, African-American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Caucasian, people from the Pacific Rim, Arab, Jews, Muslim, Christians, and every creed.

Waiting to enter the TSA Security Tent
Security, of course, was tight.  The National Guard, the Army, and the Boarder Patrol were everywhere. In uniform.

Roads were closed and there was a HUGE tent set up just before Constitution Ave. where we all had to have our tickets checked and empty our pockets, endure having our bags gone through, and walk through a metal detector.

And yes, we had to walk. And, walk. And, stand for a long while. And then walk again.

It didn't matter. We, the people, were on a journey. We were not about to let a cold day in DC stop us from celebrating our victory.

Yes, it was Very Cold on the Mall in Washington, DC, but there were several moments that so warmed my heart that I only realized just how brutal the temperature outside had been once I was back at the hotel, all warm and snug.

Bundled - and fired - up!
My heart first began to soar when Myrlie Evers-Williams gave the Invocation. Just seeing the widow of Medgar Evers asking "blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America," brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

She prayed:
One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised [votes] to today’s expression of a more perfect union. We ask, too, almighty that where our paths seem blanketed by [throngs] of oppression and riddle by pangs of despair we ask for your guidance toward the light of deliverance. And that the vision of those that came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognize that their visions still inspire us.
Their visions still inspire us. Indeed, they do. If you needed any evidence of that, all you had to do was listen to President Obama's Inaugural Address.

If you didn't hear it on Monday morning, you can certainly read the transcript by clicking the link above, or you can even find a video of it and watch it for yourself.

I, myself, watched it on the Jumbotron - along with all of the people in my section, which was just behind the reflection pool. What I would have missed, had I stayed home and watched the whole thing on TV, was the reaction of "we the people".

I wish you could have seen the electricity in the crowd when President Obama said:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths —- that all of us are created equal —- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall;
People all around me looked at each other to make sure we heard it right. Did he say, "Stonewall"? Really? Yes! Yes! He said, "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall"!

Oh, my!

We were all still letting that soak in when we heard the President say:
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law —- (applause) -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) 
People - from all races and creeds and ages and walks of life - were fist-bumping and hugging and laughing and hooting and crying.  The joy of the young people around me was especially palpable.

Yes, he also talked about immigration and voter suppression and women's rights. But, he not only said, "Stonewall". He said "gay brothers and sisters". And, he talked about our love being equal.

Oh. My. God!

It was then that I heard it. It was an unmistakable sound - one I'd heard only faintly before - but I instantly knew what it was.

With my chaperone, Doug Condit
It was in the sound of the words once spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was the sound captured in a vision that still inspires us. 

It was this: The sound of the arc of history bending toward justice. 

"The arc of history is long," said Dr. King, but it always bends toward justice."

Yes, we were watching history unfold and, in fact, participating in it, but we were also watching the future opening up in the same vision of freedom and justice for all that inspired the men and women who founded this nation.

And, we were being inspired, once again, to participate in the shaping of that vision for the future.

We. The People. 

It was a remarkable experience, and I feel so blessed to have been able to have been there to experience a piece of our history - and to catch a glimpse of a future in which we were all invited to participate and live with liberty and justice for all.

Yes, it was cold and yes, my feet and legs and back are still sore.

But my heart is still strangely warmed and my soul is still singing, "We the people."


Mary Beth said...

This gives me all the goosebumps.

Prairie Soul said...

What an inspiring post! Thanks for sharing the experience with those of us who didn't even get to see the event on television. Reading this almost felt like being there. I'm so excited and hopeful for the President's second term.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mary Beth - I had goosebumps, too. Some were from the cold. Some were from the amazement of the day.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Prairie Soul - It was an enormous privilege. It would have been selfish of me not to share it as best I could.

Susan Pederson said...

So glad that your writer's block has gone it's way and that you were able to share that wonderful experience!I am glad I took the day off so I could at least watch on television.

JCF said...

How lucky (i.e., blessed!) you were to have been there, Elizabeth. I'm happy for you (and not jealous---almost ;-X).

marilyn engstrom said...

Thanks Elizabeth
Once again you nailed it. Watching/hearing it on Tv in WY was good but your report made it even more real.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susan - Well, not exactly. I think it was, more precisely, "blog block".

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - I'm so glad because it was so very real.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marilyn - It was huge...HUGE...! The magnitude really didn't settle in until I saw all the people - lots and lots of young people and several older people - absolutely exuberant in response to what they were hearing.

It was magical.