There have been nine presidential inaugurations in my lifetime, and I'd be hard pressed to remember much of anything if you asked me to recall them. That is except for President Obama's first inauguration in 2009, which will be imprinted in my mind until my memories start to fail me. This is for many reasons, but not in the least because I was there to experience it in person. Standing on my feet for eleven hours in the frigid cold, not eating or going to the bathroom the entire time. It wasn't until I finally sat down in a restaurant on P Street that I realized how tired and hungry I was. I had not paid much attention to these details, because the day was so exciting and filled with so much positive energy. What had sustained me was my own hope that this was the beginning of a change for our country. A change that would encourage a more open-minded and inclusive approach. A change that was historical. A change that I was touched to be a part of, together with the other 1.8 million people who were there.
Things Have Changed
Fast-forward to 2013 and I had to rush to my sister and brother-in-law's to watch the inauguration, as a) embarrassingly, it had slipped my mind that it was happening, and b) I don't have cable. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I was watching it on TV versus being a part of it in person, but something just felt different. It felt more like a performance than a celebration, with Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé playing their parts. I was inspired by President Obama's speech, but I wasn't moved. It felt a bit more like political rhetoric to me then when I was listening in 2009. There were the trusty buzzwords that seem to be required in political speeches these days: education, sustainable energy, economic vitality, war, and military service. While I continue to be relieved that my President knows enough to speak about these topics in the manner that he does, I am still left wondering what exactly will be done by all our elected officials to move these things forward in the open-minded and inclusive ways I had high hopes for in 2009.
There were two portions of this inauguration speech that caught my attention, and which I instantly knew were not mentioned in Obama's last inauguration speech, or any inauguration speech prior for that matter:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
Those words felt brave.
Those words felt like change.
Those words felt like movement.
Not Just Another Day
So, like the inaugurations prior to 2009, the 2013 Inauguration as a whole might melt into something I cannot quite recall, but I know that the one part that I will remember will be these inclusive words that stuck out in an otherwise standard and safe speech and gave me a hopeful feeling that forward movement was possible. It helped me remember that Inauguration Day isn't just a day that is carried out due to tradition, but a day for the country to feel like maybe the government is hearing what the country is saying. And that is worth celebrating.