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"In Order to Form a More Perfect Union…"

January 21, 2009

As I watched Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States at noon today, I couldn’t help but smile. Not because I voted for him (I didn’t). Not because I hated George Bush and couldn’t wait to see him leave (I don’t hate him). I smiled because there is only one place where this happens. There is only one country, where people who so bitterly argued with each other over political differences can stand together and watch a new government take power. There is only one nation, where a person whose father is from Kenya and mother from the rural Midwest, who grew up middle-class and wore an Afro could become the most powerful man in the world.

The United States has had a brief, but seemingly “destined” history. We are a flawed nation and a flawed people, but only in this country is Barack Obama possible. While we seemingly are barraged daily with the shortcomings of our policies and our leaders, it is both refreshing and rejuvenating to watch unfold the very event that sets America apart, and makes us a lighthouse for countries still caught in the tides of violent discord. In a world where millions are slaughtered upon a regime change (Rwanda); oppressive oligarchs install nepotistic governments and squander wealth, while people starve (Venezuela); and women can’t vote, drive, or refuse to marry men five times their senior (Saudi Arabia), you should take pride in what your ancestors built.

I also challenge my fellow citizens to restore a civility to politics that has been absent for what seems like forever. As someone who has, in every election, voted a split ticket, I hope for days to come where political banter doesn’t sprawl into vicious personal attacks. Where people take aim at policies rather than people. Where opponents listen, rather than hear. I hope to see more bipartisan bills, and less partisan hacking. While our 43rd president left office with low approval ratings, our congress would do well to remember that it was the only body of government with a lower approval rating. The new president is right to ask the question “does our government work”, because it has been failing us across the board. I am thrilled to see Obama dining with friends and foes (mainly Bill Kristol), with the hope that maybe Americans will re-learn that we aren’t friends and foes, just fellow minds that have rendered a different strategy to yield the same conclusion. Republican or Democrat isn’t North or South. Voting left or voting right isn’t choosing sides, its voicing an opinion. I hope that Obama’s example can show this country that buildings don’t need to fall so that we can stand united. His campaign often coined Gandhi when he said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. This is a change that everyone can make.

You should also take heed that it falls to our generation to continue the tradition of freedom displayed today, and remember that so many who came before us sacrificed so much to preserve our way of life. President Obama closed his speech by saying, “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.” Let today’s inauguration be a reminder of what unites us as Americans, and also a reminder of what we must preserve for generations to come. Let us continue this rocky, imperfect experiment in hopes that we may, someday soon, form a more perfect union.

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