Archive for January 21st, 2009

Closure: Hail to the Chief

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

One of the biggest thrills of inauguration week for me came around midnight last night, when Barack Obama entered the Midwestern Ball to the strains of Hail to the Chief.

That’s when it all truly seemed real. The son of an African immigrant is our commander in chief.

In front of me, a crush of people, pressing toward the stage — holding up cameras, recording the hands of people in front of them recording the hands of people in front of them recording their slice of history.

We love you!  someone shouted.

“I love you back,” he said. “Michelle loves you back. Today was your day.”

Then our new president looked out on the sea of cameras — he had already attended six or seven balls, but if he was tired, you couldn’t tell — and, with an energized, still-strong voice, he began: 

Today we showed what was possible when Americans from every walk of life come together around our best values. There’s something about the midwest. There’s something about the heartland, that speaks to Michelle and myself, because I think that, folks are plain-spoken and plain-living and they recognize what’s important. And I get a sense that all across America people want to return to what’s important. And we don’t want somebody telling us what we can’t do, because yes we can.

If you  can make this election possible, and this inauguration day possible, then you can make good jobs for people who don’t have jobs possible, you can make affordable health care possible, you can make a quality education for every child possible. You can make sure our veterans are treated properly — that’s gotta be possible.

We are grateful to you, but understand this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Together, you and I, all of us, we can make sure that America’s better days are ahead of us. Thank you, God bless you guys.

And now, I’d like to dance with the one who brung me. She does everything that I do, except backwards, and in heels. The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

And then he took her hand, put his other hand around her back, and began a slow dance. Her hand rose up to his shoulder. They shared a private word, smiled, a bit self-conscious, perhaps. He twirled her.

Not exactly grace personified. It looked about as awkward as every high school gym dance I’ve ever attended.

You know what I love?

I love that he said, simply, God bless you guys, instead of the more formal, more staid, God bless America. He wasn’t talking to America just then, he was talking to us.

I love that he so clearly cherishes his wife.

I love that he never misses an opportunity to express hope for the future — we could all learn a thing or two from that.

And I love that he is always exhorting each of us to do our part, to become shareholders in tomorrow: “Together, you and I, all of us, we can make sure that America’s better days are ahead of us.”


We may not all have a vision of exactly what our role might be, today. We may not be able to see it clearly. But we need to make a start.

So I pledge to keep going. To continue to focus on the issues that are important to me, and to the Jewish community; to hold our president to his words, and to try, through these words, to influence the course of this administration, even if only in a very small way.

I aim to have a new post up every Monday morning — at the very least — for starters. So do check back. I’m looking into ways that I can have readers sign up to receive emails, to let them know if a new post is up. Stay tuned.

As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

After his dance, as he was walking off stage, waving to the cheering crowd, President Obama said: “Let’s go change America.”

Let’s go.