#74. Join the crowd and watch Barack Obama’s inauguration. A distinctly sedate occasion that started with goosebumps as the cavalcade made its way to the Capitol Building bearing the soon-to-be inaugurated “Commander-in-chief. Accompanied by CNN mentioning that the last event in the US to command such a massive TV audience was the final episode of M*A*S*H.
I watched it with family in Greenside, particularly significantly, my two Spanish-Speaking five-year-old nieces who live in Washington DC and were able to tell me that Yes We Can is Sí, se puede.
Much of the proceedings rested on the symbolic — the foundation of the Capitol Building was constructed by slaves, and Obama’s ascendance is all about hope and possibility, about overcoming obstacles. He was sworn in on the same bible Abraham Lincoln used – one normally housed in the library. Lincoln too represented great change. He opposed slavery and recast the meaning of America through the civil war.
A different speed to the former commander-in-chief who was all about bluster, limitations and badly constructed sentences. No doubt American comedians were watching with tears in their eyes as the world’s greatest source of material exited the public stage.
And as we watched the thousands who braved freezing temperatures I was reminded of watching Nelson Mandela’s exit from prison – at the time accompanied by a five-year-old nephew who kept asking what my brother and I were waiting for (It took hours). We told him “Superman” to keep his attention. Hours later when Mandela walked to freedom he asked why he wasn’t wearing a cape, and whether that meant he could still fly.
Back to Obama and the message on a T-shirt which read:
One voice can change the world
If one voice can change a room
Then it can change a city
If one voice can change a city
Then it can change a state
If one voice can change a state
Then it can change a nation
…. Then it can change a world
I asked one of the five-year-olds what she would do if she was president of the United States and she said: “I would paint everything in different colours”. Her sister said: “I would make everyone eat applesauce”.
And so we drank champagne, listened to Aretha Franklin, questioned Michelle’s choice of clothing (bad colour, unflattering cut, too glitzy) and I was struck by the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, chief emcee of the event, who talked of true liberty being the freedom of a people to choose its leader, controversial preacher Rick Warren’s call for “civility in our attitudes even when we are different” and of course Barack Obama’s reminder that the people of America had chosen “hope over fear” and an “end to petty grievances and worn out dogmas” and I thought perhaps some US cultural imperialism wouldn’t be so bad after all.