Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winds of Change

The true kickoff for the civil rights movement, the bus boycott, occurred while my mother was pregnant with me. Before I turned three, Birmingham AL was known as "Bombingham." I sat in my second grade classroom and watched the funeral of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sadly, I cannot remember anything more of that great man but his death; I was too young.

Today I watched, and wept, as a man who is three months and two days older than I took the oath of President of the United States. For the first time, someone of my generation, raised in the same era I was, is our leader. This is enough to make anyone, I think, pause and reflect. But of course the larger story is the history that is made today.

Now, naturally, it's history when anyone takes that oath. But often history to us is a far away thing, stuff that happens while we have our attention on the day-to-day of living. Not today. Today over two million people traveled from all over the world just to be in the same city as Barack Obama. Today more people watched worldwide as the inauguration took place than had watch all previously televised inaugurations combined. Today, history is happening in the center of the lives of all of us. It's why I asked my daughter to make sure my five-year-old grandson watched, whether he wanted to or not. Because I know that, someday, he will be thrilled to tell his grandchildren that he saw this moment.

Listening to NPR cover the events on our way in to work, I heard an African-American woman who had traveled a great distance be asked why she felt that she needed to be in Washington D.C. today. She voiced her excitement, and then said something that stuck with me. She said (I paraphrase) that now we can teach our children differently than we had to before. For me, this is the culmination of the changes that began before I was born, and I rejoice.

I heard another man quoted saying that he hoped that, after all this, Obama will be able to live up to the hype. Yes, of course...we all do. But more, I hope we will be able to live up to the challenges his inaugural address has thrown open before all of us.

Can I get an "Amen?"