(note: at left is a satellite view of the eastern half of the national mall on inauguration day. i believe the image was taken around mid-morning, since the entire mall was jammed with people at swearing-in time. place your cursor on the photo and left-click to view it fullscreen. funny how the people look like plant spores.)
i spent two hours this morning watching (and taping) the ceremonies leading up to, and including, the swearing-in of barack obama as our 44th president. how i wish i could nave been there!! the excitement was electric, and contageous. all the tv long/wide views reminded me of my own visits to washington, d.c., in the 1990s -- the national mall itself, two miles long, with the magisterial lincoln memorial at the west end (with the vietnam memorial nearby), the imposing washington monument in the middle (with the WWII memorial nearby), and at the east end the capitol building, where the inauguration ceremonies took place. flanking these, the smithsonian institution's many museums, the white house, the supreme court, and others too numerous too mention.
the day was cold by d.c. standards, but that didn't keep well-wishers away. what a grand spectacle, to see all that space filled with hundreds of thousands of cheering, flag-waving, hopeful people celebrating the ascendancy of our first black president to office. many smiles, many tears -- tears of joy over this transcendent achievement, tears of sorrowful remembrance of the long decades of struggle, sacrifice, sweat and blood that made this day possible. i like to think that somewhere, abraham lincoln, john and bobby kennedy, and martin luther king, jr., among many others, were looking down and smiling with pride.
i was moved by this momentous moment in history -- the sunshine, the celebrants, the stirring oratory, and especially by the music. even an old cynic like me was touched deeply, listening to the queen of soul, aretha franklin, singing "my country, 'tis of thee", and to the quartet made up of yoyo ma, gabriela montero, izaak perlman and anthony mcgill performing john williams' arrangement of "'simple gifts."
obama's inaugural speech was sweeping and eloquent, consistent with his vision. one phrase sticks out -- that in the darkest times, "nothing but hope and virtue can survive." in these dark days, i cross my fingers that hope and virtue remain our guiding lights. an aside: barack is 47, and i was born in '47. coincidence? i think not.
as i type this, the rituals and protocols continue. the inaugural parade is to begin shortly. but i've already seen the best of this day, and like so many citizens in washington, i too feel a complex mix of pride and hope and poignant remembrance. mostly, mostly hope.