"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."
~ President Barack Hussein Obama, January 21, 2013
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was so discouraged by the news prior to this great day in our country, a day that celebrates the 2nd inauguration of our first mixed race president and a day that honors the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I couldn’t write for weeks: my brain hardened to stone, my emotions dove deep inside, and my creativity passed out cold. But yesterday the dam broke as I anticipated this day and what it means to all of us. I started writing again, and I had a seven-page rant about the ills I witnessed in the news. I won’t burden you with it. I realized, as I watched President Obama’s inauguration speech today, it only adds to the cacophony. Instead I share this with you.
America is a great country. The majority of Americans denounced inequality and support equality. Even though there are those who want to keep the status quo where white Americans have an advantage over people of color and men have an advantage over women and heterosexuals have an advantage over LGBT people, most Americans see how that hurts all of us. They understand that inclusion is better, that we are all created equal, and we are all in this together. They want change, just as they did four years ago, only now, stronger than ever, we will press forward in a progressive direction while honoring the original ideas that formed this country.
We are not a country of makers and takers; we are not a country of only white people or only rich people. We are a country that is made up of diverse people and ideas, and we must look to the strengths each of us can contribute toward a better life for all of us, not just the elite or the few.
Though there are people who still seek to protect the old way of life where oppression, prejudice, and power imbalance ruled, they are the minority, a loud minority, certainly, but definitely a minority. The rest of us have spoken in unison and maybe, for the first time since the Civil Rights movement, just as loudly. President Obama has spoken, as our highest leader, most eloquently, about our country, where we have been, and where we are headed, because he listened to us.
There is still a lot of bad out there: people who violently disagree with equality, people who want to benefit at the expense of others, and natural and manmade catastrophes and disasters. There is a lot of work yet to be done, hard work, but we must keep moving forward. I was discouraged, but not now. I was cynical, but now I have hope and belief that we can do it.
I believe that when everyone feels a part of our country, where not one person feels disenfranchised by an uncaring system, and when we can all have a seat at the table of progress, some of the hatred and violence will go away. The playing field will be level, and all people will have the opportunity to find the best position to play in their lives. People will have safety nets that ensure, if life knocks them down, they have the resources to stand back up and get back in the game, and if they can't get back in the game, they will not be left behind. Finally, fifty years after Dr. King spoke of his dream, we are close to being judged by the content of our characters rather than our gender, race, or who we choose to share our lives with.
Thank you, President Obama, and all those who came before you, people like President Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who saw a clear way forward and sacrificed their lives to point us in the right direction.
I admit that I get discouraged. I feel sad when I see injustice, inequality, and elitism. But then I remember that things can be different.
Change is not easy, but, together, we can get there. Let’s hope that some of the 47% of America who chose not to reelect President Obama, who feel their concerns are not being heard, will be willing to sit with us, engage in civil discourse, and find a way. Together we can do it.