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Reflections on Inauguration Day

What were you doing this time last week?  Last Wednesday, January 20, 2021, did you watch the presidential inauguration?

            For weeks, I was apprehensive and concerned. Regardless of political standing, many of us have been uneasy.  The pandemic, racial violence, our November election and its aftermath, the recent insurrection at the Capitol, the division and anger among our citizens – all give way to anxiety. 

            I’m not a political being and I avoid major conflicts; in fact, I’ve been accused of hiding my head in the sand and being a Pollyanna.  I’m uncomfortable wearing a cloak of anxiety and I prayed for safety and calm on January 20.  I needed peacefulness.  I needed positives. I needed traditions. 

            While inauguration days often include celebrations and parties and rituals, our Constitution requires only the swearing in of the president.  Article II, Section 1 gives the short oath that every president says: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  This oath was first taken 232 years ago by George Washington and now it has been repeated by our 46th president.  The repeating of these thirty-six words was a United States tradition I needed to hear and see.

            An online article entitled, “Corny Comforts of the Biden Inauguration,” stated that corniness is comforting and decent and old-fashioned. I realized the traditions I needed are corny.  Corny, as in not original and overly sentimental. 

            Vice-President Kamala Harris’s and Dr. Jill Biden’s tailored coats and high heels mimicked Mamie Eisenhower’s wool skirt and black heels.  Mrs. Eisenhower was the first First Lady I remember.  Last Wednesday, I was comforted by the expected opening and ending prayers of the ceremony.  The oaths of office taken with one hand raised and the other on a Bible.  The singing of the national anthem.  Fireworks at the end of the day.  I needed those traditions, corny and as old-fashioned as they might be.

             We’d been told who the performers would be and they lived up to their personas.  Expect the unexpected when Lady Gaga takes stage.  Expect J-Lo’s confidence and beauty.  Garth Brook’s cowboy hat.  All entertainers gave their best.

            But did anyone expect the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate to steal the show?  Amanda Gorman’s opening line, “When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” challenges me.  Those words make me wonder am I seeking light or shadows? 

            We knew this inauguration would be like no other.  People wearing masks and seated far apart.  Flags on the National Mall instead of people.   Barbed-wire fences and armed security personnel like never before. A history-making vice-president who prompted my former student’s daughter, 9-year-old Annaliese, to say, “Wow, Mom! We have a girl as vice president.  You mean I could be president or vice-president?”

            We choose what we remember.  What are your memories of January 20, 2021?   

3 Responses

  1. It was a lovely ceremony. I was concerned about violence and thought the oath should be administered privately. Now I’m glad that didn’t happen. We needed this. As a country, we needed tradition, civility, inspiration, and prayer and this inauguration gave us all of those. I was so proud when the Vice President took the oath. In fact, a few tears rolled down my cheek. I wish my mother had lived to see this.

    Like

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