Monday, January 19, 2009
I'm practically jumping out of my skin. That's how excited I am about tomorrow's inauguration! I only remember being this excited a few times in my life. The first one will show my age, but I remember watching JFK's inauguration on my family's black and white TV. I was a senior in high school and we were given the day off to watch it. There was no recording, no Tivo, no videotape, so you had to watch it when it happened.:) I remember the pomp and the ceremony of Eisenhower getting into the limo and Kennedy shaking his hand. I remember Kennedy's speech and how excited I was about what he said. No one in government had ever asked me to do anything. Here was Kennedy, probably the handsomest government official I'd ever seen, and at 16, which I was at the time, he was the equivalent of a rock star to me. He and Jackie were the super stars we worship today. They televised the ceremony, of course, and the speech. Before that afternoon I had never paid much attention to what presidents said. After all I grew up during Ike and Mamie and things were always at a very low pitch. But here comes this firebrand guy with great hair that falls in his face and I was hooked. I couldn't stop watching it, even in black and white. So when he started speaking and in his speech he said that phrase that everyone now knows by heart: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.", I was ready to go to Washington.
I didn't have much of a chance to do anything for my country, since I was in high school and then went to college. But even after the tragedy of his assassination, the spirit he instilled in me was still there. When I graduated two years after his death, I wanted to go into the Peace Corps. In fact, my husband and I decided to go and we were accepted and ready to go to Ethiopia when something stopped us. I mean we had everything from the Peace Corps and were slated to go for training, but at the last minute we said no. Instead I wound up teaching for two years in Cincinnatus, NY. It was a very small rural school district with all grades in one building. That in itself was another experience, but not quite the Peace Corps.
When I saw president-elect Obama asking people to go out and do service for the country for and with their neighbors I felt the same kind of spirit begin to build in me again. It's been a long time coming, but I hope that the young people of this country start to feel it too. We didn't need to help in our own country then, because things had been so good for so long. But today we are in real need in America. Too many people have fallen into a ditch of economic despair and they have been there too long. They have become accustomed to their lack of economic strength to the point where whole neighborhoods seem downtrodden.
I hope that Obama will enliven everyone to take a good look at these places and that the people who live in these neighborhoods will also realize that they can help themselves. A kind of inertia happens when you realize that no matter how hard you have worked you are not going to be where you want to be. A kind of depression happens when you work so hard with no real returns. It isn't the fault of these hard-working people. Instead it is the fault of a government that has ignored them and given its time and effort to people who don't need help. I'm so glad that Obama decided to make yesterday, Monday, a day of service. I'm also happy to see that he didn't just give lip service to the idea, but he pitched in and did the work. He's finished campaigning, so this must be for real.:)
I'll be watching tomorrow with people I know. We've all worked hard for over four years to make sure that Bush was going to be gone and replaced with someone who had the hearts and minds of every American in his programs. Maybe we won't get a miracle, but at least we have someone who cares and thinks. I'm just so excited. Oh, yeah, the second and last time I felt this way was the night before my wedding day! I hope it works out like my marriage did. We're married forty-three years, although not all of them were sunshine and roses. But can you believe that I am feeling this way? Aren't you all feeling this way? If you're reading, please leave me a comment. I'd love to know how other people are feeling. It's a new day for America, and not the Reagan kind.:)
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