I’m pleased to accept your invitation to write a short reflection on my trip to the presidential inauguration on Tuesday.
It was definitely worth traveling 22 hours in two days, even if to spend only six hours in Washington, D.C. My son Nick – a senior peace studies major at Manchester College – and I arrived in our assigned section in front of the podium about two hours before the introductions began. We were pleased to find chairs, even though they were a couple hundred yards from the podium.
It was great to stand there and let the majesty and near-reverence of the day pour over me, giving a tingling and warming sensation on an otherwise cold day. I turned around to gaze at the sea of people, seemingly packed tightly all the way back to the Washington Monument. It was reported to be the largest crowd ever to assemble on the Washington Mall.
The crowd was a true reflection of our country. Hundreds of thousands grew up in times of extreme segregation. Other hundreds of thousands were young enough to never have cared about elections before this one. All nationalities, ethnicities and religions were represented.
For some expensively clothed attendees, it appeared that the cost of the trip was likely a drop in the bucket. There were others laid off from their jobs who scraped together small savings to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event they never expected to happen, and which they simply could not afford to miss. The crowd represented the “big tent” that candidate Obama opened to all types of people.
President Obama’s speech continued his campaign themes of change and hope. But it was tempered with enough warning about the difficulties lying ahead to be sobering. Fixing our nation’s economy, eradicating terrorism – while at the same time working globally for peace and justice and rebuilding respect from people around the world – will require much from everyone.
As I listened, and as I watched the crowd, I couldn’t help but wonder if Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. imagined this day actually happening. And I thought they must be looking down on the festivities and having a party in the “amen corner” of heaven. The election of an African-American is not “the mountaintop” that Martin Luther King Jr. described – that is racial equality, which we have not yet attained. But this election was a significant step up the mountain.
I don’t know if there will ever be another inauguration as large, with as much excitement, or as precedent-setting as this one. But if readers ever get the chance, it’s worth attending at least one. The experience of witnessing – in person – the peaceful transfer of power and responsibility that is possible in our great country, even when ideologies differ significantly, is a great one.
Nearly half the voters in the country and nearly half the voters in Goshen, would have liked to see John McCain elected. But now that the election is over, I believe with near unanimity, all people hope and pray that President Obama’s first term as president can be as successful as was his campaign.
Allan Kauffman, Mayor of Goshen