Despite early frigid temperatures, a mid-day sun warmed the crowd of more than two million who came to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama as America’s 44th president. He took the reins of power in a high-noon ceremony amid economic worries and high expectations.
Obama’s inauguration represents a time of renewal and optimism. In his speech, he said the nation must choose “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” to overcome the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
His election was cheered around the world as a sign that America will be more embracing. But he warned, “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.” And “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
He wove a thread of personal responsibility and accountability through the address. “Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices.” He said that all Americans have roles in rebuilding the nation by renewing the traditions of hard work, honesty and fair play, tolerance, loyalty and patriotism.
The crowd in the National Mall, including a lot of multi-generational families watched a longheld dream come true. And if today’s enthusiasm is any indication of what’s to come, it looks like the American spirit is strong.