My daughter, Bethany, was at President Obama’s inauguration. With a ticket. We sent her a text message during the festivities: “I see the dignitaries, I hear the band, but I can’t see you. Wave for me!”, and later, “They’re taking a satellite picture of the Mall. Be sure to smile!” (Check her blog for all her adventures! View her Flickr inauguration slide show here.)
Photo Credit: GeoEye and MSNBC.com
Yes, it has been a joyous day. A joyous day!
Welcome, President Barack Obama. This man most improbable!
The largest crowd in inaugural history. One estimate says 1.9 million in the Mall. The National Park Service is going to make an exception about not counting and crowds and count the crowd.
I looked at the crowd. I thought about the crowd. Humor me, here. Think about the crowd for a moment. Think hard. What was distinctive about this crowd? Not its historical presence. That’s obvious. We’ll all remember the pictures of the crowd, along with where we were on this day.
Here’s what I see. 1.9 million individuals who each made a decision to attend. Not one person was there because he or she was forced to attend to support the regime or the politburo or to create an illusion of unanimity for the global television audience.
They came because they could. They came because they wanted to. They came driven by a personal odyssey with a million different reasons. They came because to ignore the call to stand there at that time would diminish them for the rest of their lives. And for those of us who did not walk onto the Capital Mall? Were we diminished? Not in the least, for they were our proxy. E pluribus Unum. One out of many. We are the Union.
The strength of the American soul is not our Constitution, our laws, or our branches of government. They are all essential tools. The strength of the American soul, the very genius of the American experiment, is that we do not fear to gather. Yes, I know, we are not perfect at that, although on this day we proved the walls of racism are crumbling. And on this day, when Barack Obama took the oath of office, those walls mortared by fear seemed to be dissolving before our very eyes.
How many millions around the world, fearing for their lives or to avoid arrest, secretly watched or listened to our moment in history, aching for just one moment of that freedom of decision, of will, of assembly?
We gathered without fear. No one feared for their lives. No one was even arrested.
Our soul as a nation is stronger today. We should not be altogether surprised, for we gather every four years for the great Presidential Inauguration rituals. But our world is so different than it was even eight years ago. We face tyrants who use brutality and fear all over the world to weaken us, who strike from the shade, who love the rule of death to divide, isolate, and frighten us from gathering at all.
Today they failed. They failed by underestimating the strength of the American soul. Our will to gather is so strong, that we prepared to defeat the most nefarious action they could imagine. We gathered. Prepared. In a peaceable assembly of millions. Without fear.
Our soul as a nation is stronger today. The world knows it. Most importantly, we know it.