The importance of this day is really twofold.
First, we do need to revisit the racial aspect. This year was one of the last steps toward the colorblind society of Dr Martin Luther King spoke of so many years ago. The final few steps will take decades (because most of the old racists have to die) before we look back and wonder "What's the big deal about Obama getting elected?" I expect to see this in my children's generation. I expect that they will grow up in a world where race is, at most, used to describe what a person looks like. I don't expect racism to be completely extinct, but it is clearly now more the exception than the rule.
Second, the most important reason of this day is that it marks the 34th peaceful transfer of power from one man to the next. As for the other nine, four were due to assassination (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy), four presidents died otherwise (Harrison, Taylor, Harding, Roosevelt), and Nixon, who resigned. One of the greatest strengths of our republic is the mechanism by which we transfer power from man to man and party to party without fights, without bloodshed, without revolution. And even in the cases of assassination, the murder did not precipitate a violent change in leadership, but an orderly succession that exists to protect us from the mortality of our leaders. So whether our leaders have made it one term, two terms, four terms, or a month, we have always known and expected that when the time or crisis comes, the next man will step up and take on the role pf President.
Finally, I have a message for those on the right who are, understandably, a little bummed about watching the liberal march on Washington with little of an opposition party. Bitterness does not become us. All of us believe in the sacred nature of the Constitution in its role as the foundation for our way of life. Many of us believe that it is a document implicitly ordained by God over a just and upright people. And it is in that spirit that we should observe our republic at work.
Tomorrow, every American that is able should pause and observe this solemnity.
I was flipping through the channels last night looking for odd things on the inauguration. I came upon the Eisenhower inauguration first (C-SPAN: Gotta love it). I wasn't even a dirty thought when Ike took over. But there was a sense of power as I listened to him take the oath. A solemnity and sacredness that is at the heart of our system of government.
Later, as I got to this sentence, I found Reagan's inaugural address . Standing behind President Reagan was President Carter, newly become an ex. And as I have stated above, so did the Gipper:
To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our Nation, it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.
The business of our nation goes forward.
And Barack Obama will soon carry that business forward.