A happening

In my lifetime, today happened.

My daughter asked to miss school to accompany me to a brunch this morning, where people were gathering to watch President-elect Obama be sworn in.

It was an emotionally charged morning. I sat at a table between my parents, across from my grandmother and my daughter, and watched a black man become my president. I tried to eat, but I couldn’t swallow. I guess there was too much proud in my throat.

When the oath was finished, and President Obama said, “So help me God,” we cried. People stood and clapped. And embraced. Celebration drove a need to hold one another.

I love what happens to us during historic moments. We have happenings. People came together to watch Neil Armstrong set the first footprint on the moon. We came together to grieve on Sept. 11 2001. We came together today. We gather to watch, to rejoice, to share awe or fear, to support and to touch.

On the way home, my daughter, who is 14, said, “It must be a bigger deal than I can understand that he’s black.” What a beautiful statement of how far we’ve come.

It was only a year away from being in my husband’s lifetime that Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in schools and employment — and in public. It wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act enforced blacks’ suffrage. That was within my husband’s lifetime.

And now today happened. And my daughter doesn’t see a black man; she just sees a man.

Today, as always, I celebrate being an American. Today, as I do every four years, I celebrate the right to participate in my government. And today, for the first time, I celebrate that the people of my country chose to turn to a man for leadership, who in my parents’ lifetime would have been legally beaten in the doorway while watching his light-skinned brothers register to vote.

At dinner with my family tonight, I will raise a glass to the following people: every American soldier who has shed blood or was willing to shed blood protecting my right to vote, read a newspaper and choose my own church; Harriet Tubman; Dred Scott; Rosa Parks; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson; and President Barack Obama.

I salute their courage — and as I was reminded this morning — their hope and virtue.

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3 Responses to “A happening”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    The other day when President Obama and VP Biden (I’m not calling him Obama anymore – now he’s either Mr. Obama or President Obama – I’ve never referred to a president properly before) were riding the train, I thought about the only time I remember a political figure on a train before. I was a kid watching TV, and they were bringing Bobby Kennedy’s body back home. People lined the tracks across the nation, and you could see the heartbreak on their face and the despair in their eyes. To this day, every time I think of it, my eyes fill with tears. And now, I have a happy memory of a train. Barack Obama and Michelle, and Joe Biden and Jill, riding the train, waving, with smiles on their faces.

  2. gunky Says:

    as i pointed out to the students in my class today, mr. obama didn’t mention his (mixed) race in his speech, and he has rarely mentioned it at all in the last couple of years. to me, the day was momentous because of what he did say, because of his positive message, his views of how we all need to behave, but most urgently, because of what he was replacing in the white house.

    i have been complaining about “people” for a long time: pushing, shoving, rude, selfish everyday people we all encounter on the street and in the stores – i hope that the new president’s message trickles down and uplifts our society’s spirits so we can smile at eachother when there is a long checkout line, rather than grumble and complain; so we can let other merge in a traffic jam rather than force eachother out. you know?

  3. Jeremy A. Says:

    Congrats to Barack Obama for what he has done so far and for winning the Nobel Peace Prize! Another important thing has now happened in my lifetime (But the inaguration is probably going to stay at number 1 for quite some time). For right now, lets go out and spread some more peace! =D

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