Regardless of our individual political views, there is no denying that today’s inauguration of America’s 44th President is nothing short of significant. It is a shameful thing that our country of 200+ years has only in the past 50 years allowed total democratic participation by African Americans. That today we receive an African American president is equally important and astounding in the length of time it has taken to break down discriminatory barriers. I, for one, am grateful that America has finally taken this step in the direction of total access by all citizens to every aspect of democracy. I hope this historical moment will pass down to the smallest levels of daily life, that we will finally see true freedom for all people and a rising of acceptance based solely on human spirit and not on background or status.
As President Obama took his first steps out of the Capitol and down toward his seat near the podium, I could not contain the tears that fell down my cheeks. The magnitude of seeing a man of color stepping to the highest office of our country filled me with such great pride as an American. I was honored to be witness to this moment. All of my emotions were summed up best by the inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander. Her Praise Song for the Day is so poignant and so strong in its echoes to the past and great hope for the future. I have such hope. As a Christian, I cannot have anything other than hope. And while it is not the politics that will bring about the Greatest Change, I am excited at the prospect of a new America in whatever shape it will take. And it will be new, as it always is following times of transition. I am thankful to be part of a country where such change can occur, as was much emphasized this morning, in a peaceful manner. And I am so grateful to all who continue to fight for that peace and to protect our privileges.
Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus. A farmer considers the changing sky. A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”
We encounter each other in words: words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”
We need to find a place where we are safe. We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; the figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Others by “First do no harm,” or “Take no more than you need.”
What if the mightiest word is love? Love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp.
Praise song for walking forward in that light.