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The Precedent of the United States

I would imagine that January 20th, 2009 was a very intriguing day for many Americans. I found myself in SUNY Plattsburgh’s Yokum 200 lecture hall with more than 300 people observing/participating in the inauguration as best we could. I found myself fascinated by the pomp and circumstance of the day. It was nice seeing whole families seated to witness the historic event of our nation’s first racially underrepresented leader sworn into office. It was moving watching so many people transcend stereotypical behavior and embrace President Barack Obama and his family, though sometimes at the unfortunate expense of ridiculing the outgoing administration.

It was ironic that Obama has put forth quite a bit of effort in attempting to not disparage the previous administration and yet many Obama supporters have not followed his lead. Yes, thoughts of the previous administration's decisions are painful for many to reconsider and the consequences dire as well. But it is hard to believe that the Bush administration deliberately tried to implement unjust policies upon any segment of the American populace. Is there someone out there who disagrees with this assertion? I can't help but think that many of Bush's decisions/choices were an extension of his experiences or lack thereof, including his cabinet choices. Even though #43 was the son of a president (#41) it doesn't mean that his world view was as sophisticated as varying constituents might have hoped it would be. I guess it might be necessary to define exactly what sophisticated might mean relative to various groups.

For the first time in a long time, too long to remember, I actually sang along in the national anthem, with my hand over my heart, with pride. I didn’t really sing because I couldn’t get the words out since my voice was trembling from my being overwrought with emotion. I could only look forward or run the risk of people seeing my eyes flooded with tears. Yes, while I have lived in this country knowing it is one of the best places to live in the world, what I call American hypocrisy has always affected any notion of American democracy for me. Yesterday that all changed and I found myself wanting to become a better citizen, a valued resource in the changing society in which Obama is challenging all Americans to participate.

I am curious as to what you may have also noticed, thought, or did that may have been somewhat out of the ordinary as a result of this day in American history. What is your story, observation, or commitment to change as we enter the Obama era? What are/were some of the various historical markers that were altered or established as a result of yesterday’s inauguration? While some continue to want to frame this election as not necessarily racially significant, was it for you and if so, how? If not, why not? What are some of the things that you believe may occur as a result of this election that may not have occurred if Obama had not won? Is there a precedent to this president?


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Let me begin this comment by saying that I currently live in Washington DC and I was one of the two million people who were standing outside for hours on the frigid National Mall in front of the Capitol building on inauguration day. I even had the privilege of one of my Plattsburgh friends accompanying me (I know you’re reading this Angel). The time leading up to the inauguration here in DC was a trip. Seeing so many individuals coming to a city in order to see change happening first-hand was astounding. It was impossible to walk a block in this city without seeing someone wearing some type of clothing or pin depicting Obama’s name or profile (or to walk more than a few blocks without seeing vendors on the corners selling Obama clothes, sneakers, pins, condoms, rice, calendars, and a myriad of other products in the name of celebration/consumerism). The next day I couldn’t talk to anyone without first finding out where they were when this historic event took place. It has been a whirlwind in this city but one in which I am proud to say I was a part of.

President Obama was received unbelievably well by people here. Standing on that mall with over two million people screaming every time he (or his family) spoke, walked, were shown, or even mentioned was an experience I had never seen before. One particularly poignant moment that I noticed, occurred the Sunday before the inauguration. A concert was performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the Lincoln Memorial. It climaxed with President Obama appearing before the crowd and this is when I truly realized the impact he has and the respect he has gained. When he stood up there to speak there was no screaming. There was no chanting. There was silence. Silence to hear the words of one man and eagerness to hear words of encouragement for this country moving forward. That is respect that is unquestioned. I have never seen anyone captivate so many people in such a city.

I see what you mean about ridiculing the outgoing administration. Former President Bush was shown on the screen and introduced to the crowd at the inauguration a few times and the response was split. It seemed as though half of the crowd could not resist booing and condemning an administration that they had lost faith in. However, the other half of the crowd was pleading for those admonishing Former President Bush to stop because there is no reason to look back and we must look forward. Later that night, Jay-Z and Young Jeezy performed a song called “My President (Is Black)” for the crowd in attendance. This clip found it’s way to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News who reprimanded the rappers for their comments preceding the song; essentially a curse-ridden tirade about Bush leaving and Obama entering office. What struck me most about the television segment was O’Reilly saying that Obama wouldn’t want this. And for once, he may be right. President Obama made it very clear in his speech that we have a lot to do in this country so why waste time looking back when we have so much to accomplish right now?

The number one thing that I respected and admired from President Obama’s speech was when he addressed his cynics. People lately have been saying that we can’t be too hard on him because it isn’t possible for him to do everything that he wants. They have said that it isn’t realistic. He responded Tuesday by saying,
“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.”

I am proud to hear our leader not back down from the expectations and proud that he calls upon all of us to help him and I for one, plan to do so. And I can say that my decision to stand up and help with this change began Election Day when I cast my ballot and it will not stop there.

I can’t really speculate what would happen had Obama not won. I would not like to think that my expectations would be lowered but maybe they would have been. It’s unfortunate to think that it’s possible that I could expect less out of my country based on the result of the election. All I know is that Obama won and now is time to move forward. The buzz around this city is still going strong and I am actually participating in a video shoot at the DC Historical Society on Saturday to capture post-inauguration memories. So this feeling has yet to go away. All I can say is that I was there for the inauguration and I will never forget about it. Years from now when people talk about this historic moment and read about it in textbooks, many people can say that they watched it on television but I had the privilege to be there and see it for myself and it is something that will stay with me forever.

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