Thursday, January 22, 2009

2004 & 2008 - Four Years and A Million Miles

Tuesday I joined 1.8 million of my closest friends for the celebration of President Obama's inauguration. (As Rachel Maddow says, it just feels good to say it.) It was the nation's biggest party - 50% larger than the previous record, Lyndon Johnson's 1965 inauguration, according to the Washington Post.

But more than the number of people is the feeling. In 2004, I went to the inauguration war with my (then) 18 year old daughter to protest against the war in Iraq. With heavily armed police and military on every corner, it felt like we an occupied country under an oppressors thumb. (Some might argue that in fact we were.) The police and military were tense and it showed.

By contrast, this week's inauguration was a love-in - a very cold one, but an amazing feeling of optimism for the future. There were far more police and military than there had been four years ago, but we all felt that they were there to protect us - and they seemed relaxed and happy to see the crowds. Yes, it was cold and noisy and very very very crowded -but there's no way to avoid the infectious feel of celebration.

My daughter, now 22, her partner, and I arrived just before noon, so we were a mile from the Capitol, almost at the Lincoln Memorial. Anyone who watched the inauguration on TV had a better view than we did - we watched on the Jumbotrons set up along the National Mall. Was it worth going? Absolutely! Feeling the excitement, and knowing that 50 years from now we'll look back and know that we were there when America turned the corner - priceless!

(My son and his friends, by contrast, arrived at the Mall at 4am - something they would never do for a class! - and were as close to the front as people without tickets could get. They could see the stage, but not the individual people.)

And now the work begins. We'll all find things that we disagree with President Obama as he pushes through his agenda. But a new day has started, and I feel more optimistic than I have in a long time.


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