A historic day. America has a new president, one who inspires a clear majority of our people and who wants to serve and lead us all.
Historic, because he is our first African-American president, yes, but for many greater reasons as well. As he spoke today in his inaugural address, President Obama said many things we all hoped, wanted, needed to hear. After enumerating the challenges we face as a nation, not the least of which was the “sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights,” he gave us ideas with which to meet the challenges.
He once again eschewed the divisive politics of the past – saying that ” in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”
He invoked the promise of our founding documents, extolled those who’ve struggled to keep that promise strong: ” more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. ”
“For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. “
As a Vietnam veteran myself, this is the first time in my memory that a president has actually acknowledged the contributions of those of us who served there. And he went further to include and unify, referring to the quiltlike nature of our society and the importance of each part of the whole:
“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
He used the promise of the ideals of our nation, and of his pledge to return to those basic ideals, to inspire us to join him – as I earnestly hope we all might – exhorting us with the words of Washington to carry forth the great gift of freedom and deliver it to future generations.
May the Lord, and every one of us in any way we can, help our new president in the difficult job he faces in the days ahead. We all know it’s worth it, and now we have the audacity of hope to power us forward.