The Inauguration of President Barack Obama

I watched President Barack Obama's inaugural speech earlier today and I felt my heart dance as my eyes welled up a little. At the close of his speech, as I was loudly cheering alone in my living room, I started to ponder why this moment, this inauguration was so very important and meaningful to me.

While I have been an Obama supporter for years now, this was something more. His brown skin, an obvious melding of races and cultures, his extreme self-awareness of the path that brought him here and his words demonstrating a more humane consciousness and encompassing understanding of the world represented for me a significant changing of the guards. The most powerful man in the world is fully aware not only of his responsibility as president to elevate the United States from some of its toughest and darkest times, but he is also fully cognizant of his role and obligations as a global citizen. For that reason, millions and millions of people around the world are watching this inauguration with special interest and anticipation of what could be. Nelson Mandela in his letter to Barack Obama on his inauguration eloquently expresses this sentiment. "People, not only in our country but around the world, were inspired to believe that through common human effort injustice can be overcome and that together a better life for all can be achieved.... Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times have done.... Amidst all of the human progress made over the last century the world in which we live remains one of great divisions, conflict, inequality, poverty and injustice.... You, Mister President, have brought a new voice of hope that these problems can be addressed and that we can in fact change the world and make of it a better place."

Obama gives the Hawaiian 'shaka', the "hang loose" gesture to the Punahou High School's Marching Band (his alma matar) during the parade
Being in a particularly reflective mood today, I then thought of my own mixed heritage, and just days shy of burying my grandmother, I thought of the numerous people's shoulders that I stand on every day that allow me to live this blessed life. I have incredible opportunities and life experiences, a wonderful diversity of rainbow colored friends and family because I have grandparents who persevered through the oppression of colonialism, communism, war and economic hardship and who left me great lessons about life by demonstrating the best of their humanity. I have parents who believed that love and mutual support could overcome cultural and racial divides. I have parents, aunts and uncles and a grandaunt who pray for my well-being through the framework of multiple religions. And so because of all these people, I not only believe in the possibility but expect the eventual realization of a more hopeful and unified world, where racial, ethnic and national divides are only an afterthought, if a thought at all.

Obama, for me, embodies these weakening divides. His diverse family is not unlike mine. He is very conscious of the interconnection between the local and the global. He has written pages about it. We cannot demonize one people, without making ourselves the lesser. And so when President Barack Obama speaks that "we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it," he speaks to people like me. The global generation, people who have a limb in each corner of the world. People who need to believe that we can build a better world by drawing on our common humanity, and that we can work together by listening a little more and by being a little more just and fair and even handed.

Now I am also aware that one man no matter how powerful cannot move the world forward alone. We all a play a part. His ascendancy to the presidency gives me hope not only of a more encompassing, accepting world but it also encourages me to shrug off the despair and helplessness of the past eight years with a new awareness that here in the United States and around the world, there are many many people who to dream of a better more tolerant, kinder and just world. And maybe if we all dream that it is possible, we will work towards that goal and live it one day.


Excerpts from President Obama's Inaugural Address that resonated with me:

...On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and the worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness....

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child and seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more....

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christian and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, and drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace...."

For a transcript of the full speech click here.

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