I have lived in Washington, DC for nearly 9 years, and I have witnessed two Presidential inaugurations, one of which occurred post 9/11. However, I have never seen anything like what is occuring in these days leading to the Obama Inauguration. The traffic alone last night as I drove through the city was amazing.
There is something in the air. It is reminiscent of the era of JFK, but it is even more than that. First, Obama continues to reach out to the rank and file. I have received dozens of invtitations to inaugural events, some at embassies, some in peoples homes, etc. There is a real attempt to make this the people;s inauguration by harnessing technololgy and other resources. Somehow these events are reaching ordinary people like my neighbors and me, and not just the elite.
Second, we are already hearing that Americans can travel the world with heads held high again. Even in some parts of Africa that cheered on 9/11, odes to Obama are being written. We could well label this all “Obama Fever.”
I have to confess that I am a Democrate and I voted for Obama. It was the first vote I cast with enthusiasm since 1996. Barack Obama is clearly on of the most brilliant men to occupy the White House in some time. Through his youth, his family bonds, his connection with ordinary people, and a host of tools of which we are barely aware, he has reached out to try to touch all Americans. Whenter he will ultimately succeed in his vision remains a question mark.
Regardless of whether one agrees with his policies or not, I welcome his inspiration. In that sense he reminds me of Ronald Reagan. I did not agree with Regan’s policies, but I could not help but like him. We see in sports and in myriad places in life that attitude, emotion, and psychology are important parts of the human make-up. If Obama can fire us up like a football team to go out to get the job done, he will have succeeded wildly.
Interesting, I find myself less and less conscious of his color. For me he is ceasing to be the first African American President–he is simply an inspiring, talented President. I hope my experience is not unique, because if pople get used to seeing strong leadership by a man of color, some of our national biases may unconsciously float away. Often bigotry, whether homophobia, racisim, or something else, is born out of iinexperience with the target group. It is much harder to bash gays, if one has close gay friends or has witnessed tenderness in a long term gay couple. It is much harder to discriminate against African Americans if one has friends of color or if a family member has married a person of color. Hopefully it will be harder for those inclined to discriminate to do so, as they get to know the leader of the free world in the persona of Barack Obama, a man who transcends race and culture.
For the first time in many years, I am hopeful that we might actually be launching the New Frontier into which JFK sought to lead us.