Today marks the inauguration of Barack Obama as America's 44th President! I have waited with great anticipation and excitement so you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that we would be traveling between Minneapolis and Palm Springs right during the critical moment. By a wonderful stroke of luck, we deplaned in Phoenix for a plane change 2 minutes before Obama took the pledge and made his speech. We dashed into a small airport bar, took a seat, ordered a beer in celebration of the event and sat riveted to the television. It was awesome to watch people gather with their gaze fixed on the screens and to sense that something amazing was happening in our midst. As I watched him take the oath of office, tears welled up in my eyes and I just found myself at a place of utter amazement and gratitude that our nation actually got to a place where we would elect a young, African American man to lead our country.
My personal reaction is rooted in my relief that the Bush years are over. I actually leaned over to my husband at about 12.30 p.m. and said, "Bush is no longer going to be making decisions for our country!" It is a relief as I have felt quiet disappointed in his leadership and nervous about his decisions. So for me, no only am I glad that the old administration is gone, I am also thrilled that the President is now someone in whom I can feel confidence. I like Obama. I think he will be a great leader and help to restore a positive view of America. His line, "We have chosen hope over fear" is such a powerful signal of how his leadership will differ from Bush's. For a long time I have felt this administration wanted to keep us very afraid so that we would simply look the other way when they wanted to assert power in inappropriate and oppressive ways.
But on an even deeper level, the fact that we have elected a minority to the highest office in our country is truly memorable and deeply moving. One important question we all need to ask ourselves is this: Have we ever felt what it is like to live as a minority, denied the rights and privileges of the powerful? This question gives us empathy that should indeed transcend party lines. And if you ever have had the visceral experience of knowing the oppression of being a minority, you will more fully understand the wonder of watching a minority rise to the place of power and privilege with the grace and humility with which Obama has done so today. I feel so deeply moved for African Americans who have waited a lifetime for a moment such as this. I can only imagine, in small, empathetic ways what a victory this must feel like.
For me, today, there is no room for bickering, for the petty racist comments that I know are being made, for the "disappointment" of those who feel a loss of power. For those who feel this way have truly never understood the privilege of their own lives.
And so today I celebrate the joy that it ours in this historic moment. And I am utterly grateful that I got to experience first hand, with tears running down my cheeks, in a small airport bar in Phoenix, Arizona.