As I have mentioned before, I love stuff like this. I not only love the peaceful transition of power, I love that our Constitution defines when and how it takes place. There is something very special, for me anyway, about being a witness to this. I remember watching it because I was forced to when I was younger, but it wasn’t until I was actually of voting age and actively involved that I became enthralled with it.
And it was underscored further today as I watched the ceremony in the same auditorium where we watched the election results. For the second time in ten weeks I was surrounded by people from various parts of the world cheering fervently as Obama took office.
But let’s temper expectations a bit. There is no guarantee he’ll succeed. What experience does he have governing? It’s different than being a legislator and we haven’t had a Senator-turned-President since 1960. Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush were all governors and brought to the office at least some measure of executive experience. For the foreseeable future, Obama will be seen as doing a great job simply because he is not Bush. Lord knows he’s been dealt a terrible hand. At least he seems to be surrounding himself with plenty of smart people -- you know, the kind of people who won't look upon his flubbed line while taking the oath of office as some secret conspiratorial move to begin his secret plan of turning America into a communist state. (There are people already saying as much and those people are to be roundly mocked.)
When the whole thing was over, a fellow master's candidate from Eastern Europe asked me, "So, are you proud to be an American again?"
“I never stopped,” I told her. “But there has been an asterisk on that status since we invaded Iraq. It’s gone. For now.” I also reinforced that that the president is just a person. Yes, that’s our national leader with the power to do great and terrible things, but it is Democratic institutions that make our government special. They matter, they’re important and they are there to amplify the good and mitigate the bad – to the extent possible. Whether it was a civil war, corruption or other scandals, our institutions and citizens have helped save us from ourselves. Maybe not gracefully, easily or quickly… but they did, and that’s something to be proud of.
And now starts the next chapter. Godspeed, President Obama.