After a long drive to D.C., and a staying up way too late with the anticipation of what Monday’s inauguration will hold for us all, we boarded the Washington Metro. The subway kept was packed full of people and we hadn’t yet hit the city limits. A film crew from Tennessee was following a family as they journeyed to DC to tell the story of how they went from the March on Washington to listen to Dr. King to President Obama’s second inauguration.
Station after station people poured onto the train with their tickets of varying colors, and some without tickets, hoping to get a glimpse of the second inauguration of the president. As we exited Union Station, we followed the color coordinated paths that lead us to our gate and security checkpoint. Along the way, we ran into Nick Cannon and others who’s fame meant nothing in comparison to what this day meant.
As we found our way to our seats, there was a roar that began to swell as the presidential motorcade got close along Pennsylvania Avenue. At that moment, I realized what 1 million people sounded like, what 1 million people chanting, calling out, cheering for one black man felt like. We were all there waiting for him to say the 71 words that affirmed his second term, “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…”
It was an awesome experience to be so close, see every face, and hear every word that was said that day. To make reference to the American story that is what Montclair has become, diversity, hard work, inclusiveness, and more. The invocation by NAACP National Board member and Chairman Emeritus, Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of civil rights leader Medger Evers, set the stage to diversity for the speakers and performers as well as honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
As the president came up to give his inaugural address, the crowd erupted in another chant “Obama! Obama!” drowning out the sound of the one protester who found his way into a tree. I wondered if his speech would be as inspiring as his 2008 campaign speeches or as realistic with a “lets get to work” attitude of his State of the Unions. He found the perfect balance. To hear the president’s unapologetic speech, calling for real climate control measures, equal protection for “our gay brothers and sisters,” and voter protection was powerful. It seems like he is really setting the stage for real and immediate progress. The urgency of the issues, the strategic change of OFA from Obama for America to Organizing for America and this speech make me believe that when he said “We must act knowing our work will be imperfect”, that he meant it.
This will always be a moment that lives with me. I am curious to see how that moment is portrayed 20 or 30 years from now by the next Howard Zinn in history textbooks.