I've been trying to figure out just what to write about the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President. Candidly, I'm (still) caught up in the emotion and momentum of that historic occasion. In the spirit of "better late than never," I want to share the following thoughts.
The news media and, perhaps more importantly, experts in language have parsed Obama's speech closely. On a personal note, I was struck how he gave historical context to the day, his own place at the podium, and the formidable tasks that lay ahead of this country. A CNN commentator called Obama "Educator in Chief." I hope we see more context-giving with his initiatives and echoes from the powerful voice of history. Obama's words are sending me scurrying to shelves, seeking to learn more about and experience directly the words of Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. As I track what I read in 2009, I'm expecting America's leaders, and some from other shores as well, will figure prominently.
For me, language was a significant part of this Inauguration. Obama's speech seemed infused with poetry. The prayers soared to poetic heights. Rev. Joseph Lowery brought smiles and nods with his rhythm-infused benediction. I was particularly struck by Rev. Gene Robinson, perhaps the most inclusive of the celebrants, who spoke of "God of my understanding," enabled all to find a voice and asked for us to be blessed with challenges. There is beauty and significance in having a poet share her words at the Inauguration. Elizabeth Alexander's Praise Song for the Day was simply inspired.
I was also struck how music informed the celebration. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, simply rocked it. She looked regal, sounded great, and gave a brilliant performance. The quartet, with their variation on "Simple Gifts," reflected the many faces of America--a cellist of Chinese heritage, a Jewish violinist, an African Amerian clarinet player, and a female pianist--and the harmony to which we aspire.
On a more quotidian issue, I was intrigued by the menu for the Inaugural luncheon--and the attention it received. My next roast duck may just need the sour cherry chutney that the Washington power set enjoyed. Hey, the recipes are there for the making--why not?
In retrospect, I can only say that it was a glorious day for America. Heaven knows we've needed such a day for quite some time. I have confidence that this great nation will now get about the hard work ahead and make the kind of progress that has sustained us through the last two centuries.