President Obama officially launched his second term with an inauguration speech that highlighted his commitment to liberal policies and social liberties. A United States presidential inauguration is a powerful moment for the world to see.
Once every four years, the politicians and pundits put aside their partisan differences and enjoy what it means to live in this great democracy. We celebrate the orderly transition of government from one administration to the next without threat of the military or exile of the outgoing leaders. The most powerful person on earth, in charge of the largest and most powerful military and economy, voluntarily hands over the White House to the new president without incident, based on the will of the people. For those of you who fear a tyrannical government, consider that for a moment.
This year’s inauguration was even more special coinciding with the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. Obama did not miss the opportunity to recognize the special connection. During his speech, he made reference to three of the most significant events symbolizing the fight for civil rights – Seneca Falls (women), the Selma march (African American), and Stonewall (gay and lesbian). Dr. King’s dream was on full display at the inauguration.
Obama’s election is tied directly to the coalition of minorities, women, the poor, disenfranchised, and youth that was at the core of Dr. King’s movement and refined by Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Obama is a living symbol of the dream that King envisioned for America. Obama’s re-election doesn’t mark the end of post-racial America, nor does it mean the fight is over, it just shows that another chapter has been written in the never-ending fight for equality and a lasting image of the highest of glass ceilings being forever shattered.
There were other images on display. There was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor presiding over the oath of office for Vice President Joe Biden. Sotomayor became the first Hispanic to administer the oath of office in U.S. history. The first Latina justice giving the oath of office to the first Roman Catholic vice president for the first time is a historical moment of progress in American politics.
There was Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. The former small-time crack dealer has overcome humble beginnings and used his skills as a hip-hop rap artist to grow into a powerful businessman and “friend” of the president. There was Jay-Z at the inauguration event, side-by-side with Paul Ryan. You may ask, how does this relate to the “dream?” Only in America could a crack dealer from the projects get invited to hang out with the president on national TV. Twenty years ago there were efforts to outlaw hip hop, today a hip hop businessman is hanging out with a Black president. Yeah, that’s progress and I think Dr. King would at least smile at the irony of “99 Problems” blasting in the White House.
Inauguration day is special in America and this one was even more special because it occurred on the day we celebrate equality and justice for all. For the second time, we gave the keys to the castle to a black man in America. We asked a black man to be commander-in-chief of the mightiest nation on earth. We gave him the launch codes and said lead us into the future. For those of you who fear a tyrannical president/government consider that Obama could easily be an “angry black man,” tired of being asked to show his birth certificate as if he was some second-class citizen. But that hasn’t happened.
In America it is an orderly, peaceful transition, and we celebrate it every four years. This year we were able to celebrate it alongside the legacy of Dr. King. There could not have been a more fitting celebration.