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Obama’s Inauguration

January 19, 2009

We don’t have to play the waiting game over here in the UK in the event a new Prime Minister is voted in during a General Election. Votes are cast during the day and counted during the evening. Once the result is known camera crews scour the country looking for a look of despair one of elation.

That’s why Inauguration Day always seems like a ridiculously long way off when the final count is announced and the loser concedes.

When you find yourself – as I did – swept along by that pivotal moment when it was confirmed Obama was the 44th President, then the idea of waiting such a long time before he’s ushered into office seems ridiculous.

And yet that 60 day or so wait has had its effect. It’s provided the big man with the time to get his cabinet in place, get his inauguration speech prepared, get his daughters settled into a school near to the White House and go on a train journey to Washington D.C.

He’s not my President. I didn’t vote for him. I’m not black either, so I don’t feel as though I can lay claim to a share in the inevitable euphoria surrounding his victory. I am, in some senses, merely an observer. This is someone else’s party.

Still, I can’t help looking forward to the event. As much as some commentators, advisers and legislators may want to play down the monumental day Obama’s inauguration, it’s almost impossible not to be affected by what midday on Tuesday 20 January 2008 signals.

Obama will be marking the beginning of his tenure by laying out his vision tomorrow lunchtime. It feels like new year’s eve or an opportunity for a fresh start. We won’t remember anything of today come tomorrow.

Crazy talk. Of course we will. But still I find it difficult to resist not laying down one or two hopes for the future too even if its so I can come back to them in four or eight years time and see if they’ve come good. 

Wars will surely still rage somewhere in the world. There will surely still be poverty somewhere too. But could there be less fear? Could there be more of a feeling of respect for one another? Might world leaders take inspiration from Obama’s oratory and the enthusiasm he has promoted?

If and when it goes wrong for Obama, could we resolve not to strike him down from the extremely high pedestal we’ve currently got him displayed from? And could we – with absolutely no disrespect to the black, mixed race or any other ethnic group come to that – find ourselves in the enviable position in four or eight years time of not thinking it noteworthy to draw attention to the colour of someone’s skin if only so that we’re no longer forced to pigeon hole a person.

If there’s one thing I really wouldn’t mind it would be the latter. Surely the key to equality in the world is not just applauding the fact that someone “different” is in a position we never thought possible, but to be in a position where the perceived difference is of no significance to people at all.

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One Comment
  1. Well as someone who did vote for him (at least in the general election, the primary I didn’t – our elections are a long and convoluted process which would be hard to explain), but as a guy that resides firmly in the middle of the road politically, I am willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt, just as I originally did his predecessor.
    Obama will be granted a unique opportunity in American politics, having the majority of both houses of Congress residing in the same party as himself. This is both good and bad. It is good in that most of what he wants to get passed legislatively will be done so with nary a peep, at least for the first two years, then based on the results he gets, we may or may not continue in the same fashion.
    It is bad in that, with a set of checks and balances between the parties, one can’t sway too far to either end of the political spectrum without the other side yanking back. When everybody is of the same party, then you are compromising not with the other side in order to reach a middle ground, but going outside the realm of the average voter to pull compromise too far to the left (in this instance) or the right (as evidenced by the first 6 years of Bush) and the electorate then snaps back and damages the party in power at the ballot box. For all of the good Bill Clinton (who I really like) did as President, his first two years where he had such a majority were less than spectacular, it was when the opposition party took the House and Senate that we saw real progress because it forced compromises that otherwise wouldn’t have been asked of him.

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