Archive for January 20th, 2009

President Barack Hussein Obama

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I started this blog August 19 with the following sentence:

It’s 8:42 a.m, and, already, this neurotic Democrat has heartburn.

What a great distance we have come.

Still, today was not without heartburn.

We had purple tickets to see the inauguration. We stood for two hours on First Street, jammed with people in line, and only moved about twenty or so feet. An ambulance tried to make its way up the street, and then another, driving where there was no space. Eventually, when it seemed we might get trampled, we gave up.

Marcella and I walked up town, to a law office party, several hundred people watching on big screens, with a huge rooftop deck over-looking the inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I’m standing now in the law office, toes thawing, huge windows over-looking the street. The parade is finally coming into view. Great V’s of police motorcycles, one after the other, flashers turning.

I’m thinking about Obama’s speech.

“Today, I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But I know this America: They will be met.”

We have just inaugurated a president whose speeches require colons.

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

We have a president who extends his hand to those who might not trust us.

“It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.”

We have a president who alludes powerfully to 9-11, yet understands the need to identify today’s urgencies.

“At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

‘Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alamed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.’ ”

“America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words, with hope and virture, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.”

We have a president who looks to the lessons of our history and sees, yet again, hope.

‘You Are All Shareholders in this Victory’

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

A lead-up to history.

Spent yesterday afternoon at the Speaker’s Cabinet Luncheon, at Mellon Hall. Soaring indoor columns rising maybe sixty feet to ceilings edged in ornate gold. Soft blue light projecting up along the walls. A stage with a dozen tall American flags. Everywhere, the flags.

It was a luncheon hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, featuring the performances by Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, and New Jersey’s own, Jon Bon Jovi.

The music — Speaker Pelosi said — was the way she wanted to celebrate this awesome moment.

And it wasn’t just a concert. You could tell, because Sheryl Crow’s parents were there, and Lyle Lovett’s fiance, and Jon Bon Jovi’s wife and kids, and Pelosi’s kids and grandkids. In fact, she introduced them each by name at one point, and had them stand up, in that crowd of maybe 500. And — here’s the thing about her grandkids — they loved their moment; one or two kind of hammed it up: they were just, well … kids.

A Change’ll Do you Good Sheryl Crow sang, and then, her song inspired by the Dalai Lama: If we could only get out of our heads … out of our heads, and into our hearts.

I felt like crying. The music was right there. Working it’s way inside me.

Teach your children, best you can , she sang.

She spoke about her upbringing in Southern Missouri, where she was an elementary school teacher. “We feel like this is going to bring out the best of all of us,” she said, “to see the disenfranchised have a moment of great pride in the future, of great hope. …I, for one, feel very emotional about the next few days.”

Every day is a winding road, she sang. I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.

Between acts, Speaker Pelosi made a toast to Obama.

“I believe history is in a hurry for this young man to get a job done,” she said.

Then Lyle Lovett sang I will rise up and If I had a Boat. He was followed on stage by Bon Jovi. Like the other two singers before him, he expressed his gratitude to Pelosi for inviting him to the party.

“I really, really, really, really really figured out years ago the world should be run by women,” he said.

He sang haunting, stripped down versions of Who Says You Can’t Go Home and Living on a Prayer, guitar and electric violin stretching out forever in the hall.

Hold on, he sang. We’re half way there.

He talked about the fact that one of the things that’s always drawn fans to the band is a sense of optimism that underlies their music.

“I leave you with a song … I think you know this one.”

And then, he reached back to George Harrison.

Little darling

It’s been a long, cold lonely winter.

Little darling

It feels like years since it’s been here.

Here comes the sun ….

And, in fact, for the first time in a long time in Washington, DC, it felt like it.

Later in the day, in a different part of town, the Jewish community celebreated with a kind of pre-inauguration party at the Hilton, sponsored by National Jewish Democratic Council and several other groups. In the end, it was noted, 78 percent of the Jewish community voted for Obama.

Nobel Laureate Elie Weisel spoke. “Because we have faith in him,” he said, “we salute him.”

And then, David Axelrod, who ran Obama’s campaign, and who, in a few hours, will be senior advisor to the president, took the stage.

“I know the world is going to look at us tomorrow with great admiration and awe,” he said.

You could tell, Axelrod knew he was among friends. Listening to him you knew: it’s not really about the election anymore. It’s about what happens next.

“You are all shareholders in this victory,” he said. “You are all shareholders in this great triumph of hope.”