Monday, January 19, 2009

A Perfect Union

Can you feel the excitement and anticipation and trembling from joy in America and around the world? Everywhere you look, no matter who you speak to, there is this wonderful sense of hope. I am watching scenes from Washington D.C. on the news and so wishing that I was there with everyone to share in this moment. Thank goodness for television and the Internet that will let us bear witness no matter where we are tomorrow.

We are in the last hours of the Bush administration. Tomorrow night at this time he will be back in Texas, his long eight years as our President having come to an end. My mother has a saying that I have had to repeat to myself almost daily for 8 years, "This too shall pass." She's right - it did. It was arduous and painful, but it did pass. I would feel a bit bad for the man if he hadn't so completely decimated our country and left it in such a state to hand over to Barack Obama. Now I am just grateful to finally big him farewell. 

Four years ago, I was living in Washington, D.C., working for an environmental nonprofit. I was crying on that inauguration day. I had just finished reading "Dreams of My Father" and tried very hard to convince myself that Barack Obama was elected not as a Senator from Illinois but as our President. Four years later, it is an awesome thing to realize that that wish has been answered. 

Last night, NBC replayed the SNL Presidential Bash episode. In all of the excitement about Obama's election, I had forgotten what a long-shot he was for most of the past two years. He an unlikely choice - inexperienced, too young, not accomplished enough. Now he is about to become the most popular President in history because he gave a voice to people who had been silenced for so long - the young, the disgruntled, minorities, middle and lower-middle class, the poor, and those who never had any kind of interest in politics or candidates. He not only got them to listen, he got them to rally. He got them to all go in one direction. And all the while, "experts" and "insiders" doubt him publicly. He believed and he made us believe. And he got us to not only believe in him, but more importantly to believe in us. 

If there is one lesson that his election has taught us it is the incredible belief that possibility is only limited by leadership and empathy. In my early career I was trained that hope was useless - only hard work ever got anyone anywhere. Barack Obama changed that for me - he showed me that hope is a powerful motivator, a powerful tool that can help someone create something from nothing. He awakened in me a new sense of commitment and creativity and conviction. He made me feel lucky and proud to live in these times. 

Congressman John Lewis gave a very powerful interview with Brian Williams tonight. Congressman Lewis describes his feelings about the Obama inauguration and what it means to him having marched on Wachington with Dr. Martin Luther King. 6 minutes long, elegant, and emotional. And his quote that most stands out to me is, "To see this event, this achievement, it was all worth it."

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