“Beauty is truth,
that is all Ye know on Earth,
And all ye need to know.”
I’m looking forward to a new reign of truth, a renewed age of transparency,
reason and reasonableness in Political Affairs, and most importantly, restoration of our full civil liberties. So perhaps it is fitting that while I was an on location radio correspondant for WWZN 1510 AM Boston Tuesday morning, at the Inauguration, the young and vivacious 23 year old college student from Dallas I randomly chose to be interviewed out on the Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument in the bitter cold an hour or so before the Inauguration was named Truth. Truth had supported Obama since the beginning of his campaign. Truth couldn’t help but feel ecstatic and hopeful about the future under Obama’s leadership. She was in Washington along with her Mom, older Sister and Mom’s dear friend.
Sunday morning had begun with breakfast at the hotel with Dee, a lovely woman I met in the elevator who traveled here from Alaska to celebrate, and I enjoyed her stories about Alaska politics over scrambled eggs and fruit. Out on the Mall Sunday afternoon at the star- packed “We Are One” concert, I was moved when, after Obama spoke, in a symbolic gesture that to me signals some of the intentions of the new president, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen led the crowd in singing the original pro-labor version of “This Land Is Your Land.” [ BTW- a must see – is the uplifting documentary “The Power of Song” about Pete Seeger’s life and work. There’s a petition online to nominate Seeger for a Nobel Peace Prize, and as I was leaving for Washington, I received an email that Rep. Barbara Lee – 9th District, CA, has agreed to carry Seeger’s nomination and is soliciting specific examples of his work on Peace, Justice, & Environmental Issues by February First. ( Send to: 1301 Clay St. Suite 1000-N Oakland, CA 94612 510-763-0370 ext. 16/ fax 520-763-6538)]
On my way out of the hotel early on Inauguration Day, a family with two little boys rode down on the elevator with me. The five year old suddenly piped up “Aren’t we going to be near the cameras for MSNBC?” Wow! We’re finally bringing up a brand new generation of liberals! It was great to be in crowds of several million people cheering as the new president was sworn in, ending the nightmare that has been the last 8 years. This country has had a collective case of PTSD. Washington has been positively bubbling over with emotion, pride and euphoria since I arrived late Saturday night. The streets, restaurants and hotels have been one big roving party. Complete strangers have been walking up to each other, checking in, sharing these incredible moments, no matter what age, background, race. As someone who lived through the Boston busing crisis while in college, I am so proud of my country and how far it has come in regard to race (I had a first inkling about our progress when Deval Patrick was elected as our Governor. People think of Massachusetts as a progressive bastion, but it has always had a tug of war between “town and gown,” provincialism vs. urbanity, and despite it’s historical part in the underground railroad and it’s institutions such as the W.E.B DuBois Institute, continued racial polarization and separation.)
I realize there are still too many pockets of overt racism in this country, but hope that Obama’s presidency will help to further transcend these issues as it has been experienced in Washington this week. The entire Mall area was packed with millions of people, respectfully peaceful, side by side. I had a Press Pass – graciously thanks to Dave from Seeing the Forest blog but was unable to get anywhere close to a press area as the Mall & environs were already so crowded well before 8 in the morning. I had been invited to stop in at the combined Senators’ Kerry and Kennedy offices Inaugural viewing party at the Dirksen Senate Office Building and another party up Connecticut Avenue above Dupont Circle, but getting around Washington was taking hours by Metro and on foot with many metro stations and roads closed off for security reasons as well as by the Parade, so I never made it to either place. Instead, I sat for a long while over a large cup of coffee warming up after 7 hours outside in the cold. (Thank god for “little hotties” hand and foot warmers that kept us all from freezing out there!) A little bit of sadness interrupted my afternoon when a friend called to tell me that Senator Kennedy had collapsed at the Inaugural luncheon and was taken out to an ambulance on a stretcher having had a seizure. We’re all hoping for our Senator’s health to improve as it is difficult to imagine the Senate without him and know how much he is looking forward to crafting new Universal Health Care Legislation. Later, I celebrated the day again, over dinner and wine with old friends from Cambridge.
It’s been an amazing and emotional experience to be here, to personally witness change to what I hope will be some sort of equilibrium instead of the Orwellian upside-down world we’ve been forced to endure. I realize how enormous the challenges are that we face, particularly the economic meltdown, and I don’t expect overnight miracles, but I am hopeful about Obama’s ability to handle the complexity. I’m so thrilled to have a brilliant president who is worthy of the 21st century (and he has just been allowed to keep his beloved blackberry!)
More highlights of my DC experience:
Sunday afternoon “We Are One” Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial was all wonderful but was particularly moved by Tom Hank’s recitation of Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and Pete Seeger, Tao Rodríguez-Seeger & Bruce Sprinsteen singing ‘This Land is Your Land.”
As I go walking that freedom highway;
This land was made for you and me.]
Monday afternoon volunteered during the “Day of Service” to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., across town at the RFK Stadium, packing care packages and writing letters to our soldiers overseas, where we just missed seeing Governor Patrick and other members of the MA delegation.
Monday evening we enjoyed the Netroots Nation Party over sushi, grape leaves and Martinis at the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington keynoted by a rousing speech by Howard Dean about the successful role of the Netroots toward the outcome of the election, and stressing the importance of continued engagement in the process of democracy.
“…the time has come to set aside childish things.”
“…As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.
Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”
– Obama Inaugural Address
Tuesday Inaugural, Obama’s address bravely included Muslims and non-believers for the first time in an Inaugural speech. A nice start toward including everyone. There was a bit too much Christian religion in the entire event for my taste, (separation of church and state, anyone?) but I make an exception for the closing benediction by Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, one of the original Civil Rights leaders – he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Mobile, Alabama and founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s. I can only begin to imagine how unbelievable this experience has been for him. He opened with lines from what is considered “The Black National Anthem” (“Lift Every Voice and Sing” – first performed in celebration of Lincoln’s birthday in 1900, so the symbolism is doubly great) and he closed his blessing quoting from an old traditional roots blues song:
“…we ask you to help us work for that day when
brown can stick around,
when yellow will be mellow,
when the red man can get ahead, man,
and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy
Wednesday afternoon, I went to a Roundtable Panel Discussion sponsored by Netroots Nation & Think Progress at the Center For American Progress on “Internet Advocacy” (the role of the Netroots and technology in governance over the next four years) with a booksigning by Mike Lux, one of the five panelists, for his new book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best In America Came To Be.
That evening I met some friends from Pittsburgh, for dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown. I am still savoring the week, both teary and bleary eyed while I get ready to drive back to Massachusetts today. What a fantastic week it has been!