Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Remarks on attending Jan 20th Obama Inauguration


(The power of two million strong testifies to the new patriotism.)

I know. My $5 button proclaims it: “I Was There!” My point: there was actually one thing of far greater significance than the inauguration of President Obama. Yes, his taking the oath of office was clearly a triumph of our democratic principles, and most certain one of enormous historic proportion. But greater still, was the crowd. More precisely, it was the size and the dimensions of that awesomely respectful mass of humanity. We assembled in the bitter cold to bear historic witness to our extraordinary collective achievement. The police and the press now estimate by satellite counting that we numbered 1.8 million. (NASA or NSA satellites?) I argue we were well over 2 million. Mind you, there was not one single arrest! What does that tell us?

We must take full measure. Truth be told, the greatest significance was not the massive number, it was the complexion and complexity of that mass of humanity. Racial integration does not even begin to give full measure of that assemblage. It was rainbow, beyond rainbow, beyond rainbow. We were somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, all two million of us, laughing and crying tears of joy and thanksgiving.

When in all the history of humankind has there been such a large public assembly, that integrated, and yet so entirely peaceable. Again, not one single arrest! What does that tell us?

Never mind the stereotypical photos black and white, young and old all standing joyfully together. Yes, we were represent’n. Folks traveled from every geographical point within and well beyond our national boundaries. I saw people in wheelchairs and others with walkers braving the crowd. I spoke with grandparents from the Georgia Sea Islands who had stood since the dawning hours with their adult children and their obedient grandchildren. We shared personal narratives with each other and with the attentive companion family from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I observed folks wrapped in expensive furs standing unabashedly unafraid beside folks wrapped in rags. I witnessed individuals wearing yumulkas standing unperturbed alongside others wearing checkered middle-eastern scarves. Everyone was shivering in sub-freezing weather. Bright sunlight beamed through the frigid morning haze. Sometimes the glare made the magatrons near impossible to view. No one complained. Everyone was mindful of each other’s material and spatial needs in that densely packed crowd. Miraculously no one shoved, no one fought. There was no crowd rage. What does that tell us?

Actually the scariest part came after the swearing in and after the inaugural speech, when everyone anxiously realized the challenge to exit safely. One false move by one individual could easily have caused a massive panic attack. Hundreds, if not thousands would have been trampled, maimed or killed in a massive panic attack. We were not having it. What does that tell us?

It tells us all that President Obama is absolutely correct. “This is not about me. It is about all of you.” We two million proved him correct. Beyond our wildest imagining, we overcame all our doubts and fears. We collectively organized ourselves into a working coalition of majorities and minorities to elect the first American President of African descent. We democratically mobilized a mass movement and raised unimaginable sums of wealth from the people. We utilized the collective genius of those masses to work the new tools of cyber space and got out the vote. We amassed more than 2 million for the Inaugural.

President Obama, is the coolest, calmest, most collected political leader of our time precisely because of those two million folks standing together before him. We came together not just to show our respect and appreciation for President Obama. We came to show respect to and appreciation of each other. That is what gives this duly elected president the confidence to fearlessly lead us through these perilous times. The most stunning fact of all those inaugural festivities, was that we displayed our pride and our profound love for our democratic republic. We reclaimed our patriotism for our system and in our public selves. The world must take full measure: the reality of that peaceable assemblage is far more powerful than the megatons in our military arsenal.

Now we must now use the power of our collective numbers to keep our elective representatives accountable and true to our nation’s best nature. Now that we have all experienced the audacity of hope, we must summon the vigilance and the courage to make certain that they never forget “to keep it real.”

Larry Aaronson

1 comment:

  1. Larry,
    I am trying to reach you about something I am writing about Cardozo. Could you email me at cuban@stanford.edu. Thanks.

    Larry Cuban