Photo from LA Times
In Barack Obama’s demeanor, in his inauguration speech, and in the wide- and long-stretching sea of people watching him, was everything. Everything of the senses, every sight, sound, emotion, ran wildly the gamut within them, within all of us watching everywhere. Everything that each of us have become swirled tumultuously within us as we imagined how and where we will fit in.
I don’t recall truer words coming from any man taking office, maybe any man, period. But as I listened to Obama’s call to the American people to a greatness so many of us have forgotten, I was very aware of the tiredness I feel.
The last ten to twenty years have been hard on the American people. Like me, many people are badly burned out and unhealed from careers that sapped everything from them as tasks got added to their job descriptions with every one of the myriad layoffs during that time. We worked harder and longer to try and keep up but it was impossible. And we were the “lucky” ones. We had jobs. Others became tired of trying to find work, tired of poverty and the devastating toll it takes on bodies and souls, tired of a war they didn’t believe in, tired.
In the words of Obama’s speech and in the eyes of that wide- and long-stretching sea of people in DC watching, in that everything, in my mind’s eye, in a lightning flash of clarity, I could see the exceptional ones within our country as a whole and what that thing is that it takes to be exceptional, to be great. It was gone so fast that I couldn’t tell you what that thing was, but I came away knowing I didn’t find it within me.
As sad as that was to me, if I feel it, chances are others do, too, and for every one of those others, the swirling tumult within me cries a prayer: that there be enough Americans who are on fire and have the energy and the will to keep this good, great positive momentum going until it sweeps up even the tired ones to hope and to a new era of Americans willing and able to sacrifice selflessly, momentously for others, for their families and other families, for the country, for the world.
And I have great hope for that, for as I watched the rest of the inauguration ceremony, the Bush send-off, and the luncheon, I was reminded of a great man I worked for once, who demanded my best and then pushed me beyond it. I rebelled at first and I paid for it, but as I watched that man, the way he carried himself, and the way he conducted himself with others, the greatest admiration for him built within me, as did a will to emulate him along with a knowing that I could. And I did. And I think Barack Obama will be that kind mentor for the majority of Americans.
In Barack Obama’s demeanor, in what he says and does and how he says and does it, is everything. Truly.
Photo from LA Times
“Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, 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. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen”
The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery