Our 44th President of the United States celebrated his (second) inauguration today. An African-American president (re)elected to the highest office in the land is something to note. That today is also a federal holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is poetic. Hopefully the overwhelming significance of this occurrence is lost on the youngest generation of Americans. But for some of us it is simply breathtaking. If you are old enough and young enough you were taught about the civil rights movement by teachers who were in the fight. You listened to a scratchy recording of the I Have A Dream Speech played by a teacher who had been there. You may have witnessed (through child’s eyes) the placards and marches for E.R.A. and the first stirrings of gay liberation. To have one’s first understanding of civics to be that of exclusion and assassination is profound.
Fast forward to today: a day when the Vice President of the United States was sworn in by Justice Sonya Sotamayer (an Hispanic woman), the inaugural invocation was given by Myrlie Evers (the widow of Medgar Evers) and the inaugural poem was written and read by Richard Blanco (an openly gay Cuban.) The master of ceremonies for this great event was Senator Chuck Schumer (a Brooklyn Jew.) Have we covered all hues of the rainbow?
It is easy and human to be frustrated by what often feels like glacially slow progress. We know what is right and grow impatient seeing it become a reality. But today, and perhaps only for today, all things seem possible. That a president of the United States of America would mention Stonewall in an inaugural address is simply awesome. That Stonewall is (finally) said in the same breath as Selma and Seneca Falls is remarkable. That it was said by a 51-year-old President is not surprising. My guess is that he too was taught about the fights of the 1960s by those who had fought. I’ve often wondered what happens to a generation born into a rash of assassinations, college takeovers, and fire hoses. Today I finally have the answer: they grow up to lead the free world.