Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inauguration day and why I'm a tad jealous of my kids

When I was Henry's age, Jimmy Carter was trying, ineffectually, to bring our country out of the dark days of Watergate and all the lying and paranoia of the Nixon years as well as the lingering poison of the Vietnam War and the ripping social changes that occurred as a result. A few years later and still too early for my first presidential vote, Ronald Reagan was in charge. The only thing I can remember in high school was the day Reagan was shot, and by the time I was immersed in college and had found my people, those with broad and tolerant liberal ideals and traditions, Reagan's second term represented nothing but superficial cheer and jingoism. I understand now that Reagan was unable to utter the word AIDS until 1987, so huge was his discomfort over homosexuality, and one has to wonder if the epidemic had broken out in the "straight" world whether more might have been done to stem it and prevent the hundreds of thousands of deaths from the disease during his tenure and the millions afterward.

But then there's this:

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law ... for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
President Obama's Second Inaugural Address 

And there was also this:

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.  For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.  We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. 
President Obama's Second Inaugural Address 

 and this:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  ...  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.  That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
President Obama, Second Inaugural Address 

I remember wincing when Reagan spoke during his later years, and for the life of me I can't remember a single thing he said in an inaugural address.

Not so my sons Henry and Oliver, and the experience they are having as kids growing up during the Obama years. They are at once nonchalant about his race and the enormous gains that his presidency represents and enamored of his cool eloquence, his smile, and his beautiful children the exact same age as they. They know he supports the gay parents of their friends, and that his health plan will help families of children with disabilities like theirs. They know that he not only believes in global warming but that he is (however belatedly) pledging to do something about it.

We watched the inauguration all morning, and while my eyes teared up again and again, finally spilling over at the ringing words of his address, both Henry and Oliver took it in stride, enjoying the music and even the wonderful poem that the openly gay, Cuban-born and American-raised Richard Blanco read in a Billy Collins'-like incantatory tone:

You guys are so lucky and blessed to be coming of age during this time, I said to my boys, proudly. This  man is our President and he represents what is good about our country, what our country should be proud of  -- you're lucky that when you look back on your childhood, he will be the man that you remember as our country's leader.

You know, I realize the inauguration used far too much corporate money, and I've never been one to appreciate splendor or fawn over celebrity, but I do revel in the words, and I heard them as authentic and true and resolved. I can't pretend to know whether things will unfold as the President wishes them to, but I can hope they do, and I can sure as hell impress upon my children that the ideals spoken of yesterday are the right ones, the honorable ones, the ones that their father and I espouse and support.

Reader, what did you think of the President's address and if you are conservative and dislike the President, what did you tell your children?


  1. My heart swelled with pride many, many times yesterday. 2008 was a notable time for me but 2013 was so much better. It proves that 2008 wasn't just a fluke!! As for my conservative friends and family? As far as I can tell, nothing changed. I spoke with a best friend and my sister. Neither had bothered to watch any of yesterday's historic offerings. So far, the only conservative I'm giving a nod to is Lamar Alexander and his intro speech.


  2. Amen to every word here, and every word my president spoke from that inauguration podium.

  3. I had the same reactions as you yesterday...watching Barack and Michelle be real human beings, like always. I have lived thru (miraculously) the terms of Reagan, Nixon, Bush(es)...and have never in my life been so proud of our President. Just when I thought all was lost...Barack Obama was elected in 2008 against all the bigoted, racist odds in this country. And I wept. And again yesterday, I wept, but maybe for diffferent reasons. Hope maybe. He's not perfect. He's human. And I love that the most.

  4. And then there was this:
    "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"
    As a member in my multi racial family, long term (33 years) foster mom to a young woman with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, partner for 34 years to the love of my life that I am unable to marry legally in our state and adoptive mom to my very medically fragile 22 year old daughter - who lost many many critically needed Medicaid services just by turning 21, those words were balm to my soul.

  5. Holy crap, I was only able to see a bit of the Presidential Balls, and hoped to catch some of this online today. Your post is wonderful, and I cried to read our President's words and again to hear the beautiful Inaugural Poem. Thank you for this post, and for saying so much of what I think and feel as we move forward from here.

  6. I LOVE that man and i too feel blessed that my children will grow up with this as part of the fabric of their memory.

  7. We watched it all day and a lot of the same thoughts went through my mind. It's amazing how unfazed my 14 year old is about the significance (still) of Barack Obama's second term. In fact, to her, the biggest injustice is that we don't have a woman president. When Hilary showed up on the screen, she said, She better run, because I can vote for the first time in 2016!

  8. I'm with you baby. It's a braver and newer world than when I was a young'un and I'm damn glad of it. And this: Hank sent me a text last night about Obama that said, "That man sure can speech!"
    And when Obama won four years ago, he called me crying and said, "We did it! We did it!"

  9. I love our president and I love you for writing this post. You prefectly described how I was feeling as I watched the day's events. What a day that was, and what a speech that was! Wow!

  10. I wish you'd heard from some conservative readers (do you have any? LOL!) -- but I suspect that many just didn't watch, as Bonnie described above. It seems a disturbing trend among many of us to simply ignore the perspectives of those we don't agree with. Conservatives watch Fox News, turn off the inauguration, and that way get exclusively reinforcing messages about their views.


    I haven't yet seen the entire speech, but what I have seen was incredible, and like you I am thrilled with both the direction of the country and the soundness of Obama's message and ideals. It certainly IS a far cry from the Reagan years. Holy cow.

  11. "I was only able to see a bit of the Presidential Balls"...

    Unlike the First Lady later that evening. ZING!

    Sorry I couldn't resist. I was sucked in like a kid into a toy store...

    But as for my political views about the stuff that I saw, I want so badly to be moved, but I am so jaded by it all now that it serves to only make me sad these days because I see the road ahead as more of the same kind of bipartisan bickering and unfavorable compromise that oft leads nowhere.

    But then again I've pretty much lost all hope, so my opinion doesn't matter much. I'll probably be dead from stress in a couple of years anyway. WOOHOO!

  12. I loved it, too. But I remember, fondly, Clinton's presidencies, and took much hope from them as well. I have a fervent wish that he will be able to do some of these things he talks about over the next four years, given the state of the House and Senate. Perhaps believing in him will help. Thanks for lifting me up today.

  13. it was one of those days that I truly miss having cable tv

    I have seen bits and pieces on my iPad news apps - and as always, am proud of our President, his darling family, his sweet girls (the same ages as my oldest and my youngest - and the President and First Lady are the same age as my husband and myself)

    If I had seen into the future when I was a grade school child and afraid of the atom bomb and george wallace simultaneously - all my fears would surely have washed away. President Obama and Michelle were sitting in a grade school classroom at the same time as me - looking out on a wide and unfriendly world. It makes me happy and I feel a kinship.

  14. Thanks for posting the poem-- I missed it during the event itself. The chaos of the last few days only let me have a free moment now. Look forward reading more of your posts.

    1. Thank you, David-Glen Smith, for visiting my blog and for leaving a comment! I've just seen your own writing and really look forward to exploring more of it -- how did you find this space?

  15. Amazing, wasn't it? I cried and cried, and cried some more. Such healing happy tears for so many of us in so many of those words. How fortunate and proud we are to have him at the helm. Forward. Together. Glorious.

  16. His election both times has been deeply meaningful to me. I attended the inauguration in 2009 and it was a highlight of my life. I live in a conservative community and am passively-aggressively insulted many times for expressing how I feel, but it doesn't how I react to his words. Years ago during the first election I was in the middle of a PTSD breakdown... flashbacks, panic, and horrible night terrors. A kind therapist told me I could call on someone to come help me in those terrifying dreams. Each time I did so it was Barack Obama who would show up. I don't know why or understand all of how the broken, healing mind works, but it his calm demeanor and wise words have helped.



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