On my way to school this morning I passed a crowd gathered in the Civic Center park to watch President Obama’s inauguration. Hundreds of people huddled close leaving no gaps in the crowd. They all faced the giant screens set up in the center of the field to broadcast the swearing in of our nation’s 44th President. I watched the ceremony and subsequent speech at school, soaking in the rhetoric with fellow future lawyers and the professors who teach us. There were few dry eyes and several people wept openly.
I wouldn’t begrudge anyone an upwelling of emotion. It was a great speech from a great speaker and he gave it on what is undeniably one of the most historic days of recent memory. People will be talking about Obama’s presidency for years to come and it all started today.
But underneath my joy at the dawning of a new day in America with its unwritten pages (and other hackneyed metaphors for hope, renewal, and promise) I can’t help but feel a little tickle of apprehension. To be clear, I supported Barack Obama from the first primary. I even involved myself in his campaign above and beyond buying a t-shirt and casting my vote by working for his campaigns voter protection effort in my native Florida. I am happy that he won and hopeful for our future.
But despite the strength of his rhetorical abilities I still feel the pull of the cynicism he has campaigned so strongly against. As inspired as his speeches are and as much as they evoke the feeling of change and progressive action for a beleaguered country, I still feel like Charlie Brown. I am afraid that the change in administration is a new football Lucy sets upon the tee and we the people are lining up our kick because this time, this time it is for real. She won’t pull it out from under us and send us toppling ass over our collective elbows. The challenges are many. The obstacles are high on several fronts. I worry about blowback from President Obama’s messianic reputation and whether that will prove to be more of a hindrance than a help.
But despite my own clinging mistrust of the ability of our leaders to lead us effectively I will place my trust that we get the government we deserve and that we desperately deserve someone who can nudge us toward fixing the problems we created and give us the tools to do so. I truly believe that President Obama is capable of providing the leadership we need and that he will help us overcome the obstacles in our path. So I for one am more than willing to really step into this kick and whether we end up falling flat, splitting the uprights or bobbling the whole thing it feels good to dig in and have something to look forward to.
But someone said it better:
“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.”
We all have to work in the garden.