We went to the Inaugural Ball at the WVU Alumni Center to dance with a great crowd of people celebrating a new day in America, a new day for the world. When I woke the next morning, I had this thought: there are two kinds of Americans. There are the Americans who think this country is great because it is prosperous. And there are those who think America is great because people are free. (I guess you also have to count the ones who don't believe America is great, but I'm guessing they weren't at any of the Balls in this land on Tuesday.) The reason Obama's speech on Tuesday was so compelling is because he was speaking for all the Americans who define greatness by the freedom to be who we are, to work with integrity, to build and to give according to our abilities, and he is wise enough to know that with great freedom comes great responsibility. The responsibility to love one another. To love one another enough to tolerate their freedom to be who they are. To love one another enough to help those who are in need. To love one another enough to cry while smiling at your great moment of accomplishment, on the eve of your taking on the hardest work you have ever done. To love one another enough to know that prosperity is not the only, or even the best, measure of greatness.
Here is my favorite part of President Obama's Inaugural speech.
"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
"This is the price and the promise of citizenship."
-President Barack Hussein Obama
And here is a link to the beautiful poem by Elizabeth Alexander, Praise Song for the Day.
Praise song for struggle;
praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring it out at kitchen tables.