By Courtney Howell
Today we attended the 57th Inauguration in United States history! Our standing area was extremely close to the Capitol and our whole group in the green section was able to stand together, which was pretty amazing. Although I couldn’t see anything (my height was an impediment!) or hear some of the speakers (their PA system was surprisingly poor considering how close we were), it was great to be present for a part of history.
I was both pleased and surprised by the president’s speech. At the beginning of this experience, before coming to D.C. , I had expectations for the inaugural speech:
I would love to hear him address issues of climate change, endangered species, women’s rights, carcinogens, EPA and FDA regulations, and sustainable farming, but, unfortunately, those issues are not anywhere near the top of the list of important things to cover (although I would argue they should be).
During the speech, Obama actually did address some of the issues that I hoped he would. Here is a small snippet from his speech in case you missed it:
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. 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. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
He addressed climate change and women’s rights! He didn’t talk about some of the other issues I had to hear about, but I was definitely happy with his goals for the future. Unfortunately, with a Congress that is still highly dysfunctional for a number of reasons (including polarization, which wasn’t addressed), it may be difficult to get significant pieces of legislation passed. I haven’t gone back and listened to the speech again, but, from what I heard this morning, he has great aspirations for the next four years.
While there was no explicit mention of Martin Luther King, Jr., it was clear to me that Obama was trying to channel the messages of Dr. King, including justice and equality. His speech does have strong political implications, the consequences of which we won’t know until a few more years have passed. However, speaking purely as a citizen, I found the messages in President Obama’s speech uplifting and heart-warming. It was exactly what I wanted to hear at this important time of our history, moving forward as a nation, striving to make the world a better place.
Until next time,