Washington, D.C. is smitten.
Over two million people from every imaginable walk of life have made the journey to the capital to witness the swearing-in of the first African-American president. America‘s cornucopia of current problems has left American morale teetering between hope and despair, but we finally found a reason to smile.
But regardless of whether you believe Barack Obama‘s policies will actually make things better, something really has changed.
And I have seen it with my own eyes.
I am here in D.C. for the inauguration. I know, you hate me. But I am not here to boast.
I am here to convey to you the electrifying emotion and the sense of renewed patriotism that has captured the nation‘s imagination.
These past few days I have explored the city, talking to the wide variety of people who have come here.
Outside of Cannon Office Building, where I worked over the summer, I saw an aging African-American man waltz out the front door screaming with more glee than Charlie when he found the golden ticket, “I‘ve got my ticket man! I‘ve got my ticket!” His name was Nate Perkins, an eccentric Vietnam vet who makes grassroots political action training videos for a living. My former boss, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, gave him two tickets to the inauguration for his contributions to helping mobilize the Democratic youth.
On Sunday, the inaugural week began with a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Despite the fact that my friends and I got there a few hours early, we had to push our way to find a decent vantage point.
I saw my first Anarchist. She was blaring propaganda through a megaphone and trying to pass out literature to disinterested pedestrians. She roared, “What does it matter if an African-American was elected president? The true problem is with the system! The system needs to change!” I‘m not sure what form of a government an anarchist would desire, but her oxymoronic (minus the oxy) blabber was entertaining.
The Lincoln Memorial concert was nothing short of amazing. The area around the reflecting pool, all the way up to the Washington Memorial was filled with people. The concert hosted virtually every famous African-American and celebrity you could think of. Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Tiger Woods, Jamie Foxx, and Queen Latifa all made speeches. U2, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, and Beyoncé performed for the crowd. Even Tom Hanks and Steve Carell made appearances. Barack Obama and Joe Biden sat behind a transparent, bullet-proof barrier as they watched the festivities.
The greatest moment of the day came when Barack Obama addressed the people. It was at this moment that I realized the true significance of the next President of the United States. Many people are skeptical about Obama‘s ability to actually make a real change. Skepticism. This is the feeling that has consumed us for so long. But this doesn‘t matter.
The truth is, America has been without a real leader during a time when it needed strong leadership.
America has found the leader it needs.
As Obama spoke, the emotional masses served as a testament to this idea. Thousands of people endured the cold so that might catch a glimpse of him, even if for just second.
For the first time in a long time, we the people, feel like we matter. Like the government is actually of the people, by the people, and most importantly, for the people.
The era of fear, of irrationality and of backwardness is over. We have a chance to build a better, freer society not only for ourselves, but for our children.
Even during these difficult times, we have much more reason to be hopeful than to despair. Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America reminds us that our brightest days lay ahead. We have found our champion, to unite us, to guide us, and to inspire us.
We are finally one. And because of this, anything is possible.
MIKE HOWER is freezing in D.C. and can‘t wait to return to California‘s moderate climate. Tune in next week to hear what it was like to be at the inauguration! You can reach him at email@example.com.