Nation unified under historic inauguration

Despite being in class during the inauguration itself, the event has somehow followed me through negative space, defining my community’s reaction by its absence. It brings home wholly and finally to me the power of change, that unbearable lightness of being so many of us are feeling is that of the people of the United States, many of whom feel truly connected to the electoral process for the first time in their lives.

The only news in town is the inauguration, what it means and what the new presidency heralds for the future.

If there were any doubt as to the importance of the United States on the world forum, a simple assay of the major international papers will confirm the impact our national politics have. Even Senator Kennedy’s collapse has taken a back seat to the largely preplanned inauguration coverage.

I am startled not so much by the rhetoric of the inauguration speech, which is as achievable by art and rehearsal as any other of its ilk, but of the connection and empowerment so many Americans feel, despite any obvious differences of age, gender, race, class or culture, to the election of this candidate. Somehow, no matter which candidate any of us had voted for, there is a sense of connection that comes from witnessing historic events, even from a distance. We all feel engaged, surrounded by the information and the connection to events in Washington.

The performances at the inaugural concerts only serve to underline the numbers represented by the election itself. It took all of us to choose to change, and that perhaps may have brought us together more than the candidate himself.

It is somehow ironic that again, we have elected a president who speaks of hard work, but more as a fair warning and a call to arms than as a catch phrase for winning elections. The similar words only serve to underscore the vivid differences of emotion, empowerment and intensity surrounding the two.

It seems somehow unfair to compare them, as if President Obama has had some sort of advantage that President Bush has not, but in truth the converse has more validity. Obama’s antecedents were quietly Midwestern, his heritage is one of mixed race, and strong values, living amid salt of the earth people whose love for their family was stronger than their previous prejudices.

This upbringing is a far cry from the oligarchy of political power that marked the Bush family, somehow resulting in a leader whose affectations were more in line with farmers and ranchers than Yale-educated powerbrokers. Hard work is more than a buzzword, and change is more than a sigil. That seems to be the message out there in the world today. The demonstrable melting of a long held barrier to achievement in this country has been demonstrated, and although the issue of race is significant, it is also not the most compelling part of the day.

This is also a day when we embrace statesmanship over militarism, and questioning over dogma. The innate equality of all persons, and their right to due process and equal treatment under the law is a deeply American sentiment, and Tuesday saw its realization. Not in the president himself, but in the unity of purpose and values among a diverse population that put him in the highest office of the land.

This election was a confirmation of the power of the individual, and the validity of the American experiment.

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