I spent much of the day entranced by the inauguration. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. I’ve seen a few inaugurations now, and I confess that I felt, well, a little emotional to witness what happened today.
True, I voted for our new President, and I cannot deny the sweeping feeling of vicarious emotion that one gets when you’ve been a part (however sliveringly small) of such a movement. Strangely, that part of my emotional response was not unlike the feeling I got when John Elway lifted the Lombardi trophy (go Broncos!).
Nevertheless, I think I’m objective enough to say that more than mere “victory lap” emotion clouded my eyes this morning. Indeed, I think I can even lay aside the obvious and undeniable emotion that anyone with a shred of a sense of history had to feel to see Obama stand up and take the oath of office. (Heck, even former — phew! — President Bush was not unaware of the history, himself commenting on how jarring it is to contemplate that the foundation of the Obamas new home was laid by slaves.)
Yes, I was moved by such things. But even more than all that I was moved by how our beloved country once again concluded a peaceful transition of power. In the face of all the hatred and terror around the world, the leader of the United States of America, our perfectly imperfect experiment of human governance, willingly gave up his power and handed if off, without threat of malice or hint of ire, to another. More than that, Bush handed it off to someone who will, as soon as he is able, undo much of what Bush fought so long and hard to accomplish.
It is, in a word, extraordinary.
Reflect on it, if you will:
After Justice Roberts did his best to embarrass us all by bungling the oath of office, Obama executed the Constitutional instructions and became the next president of the United States. The crowd went into an understandable roar. Hands were shaken around the dais. And quietly, unnoticed in all the hubbub, a single man with a leather-bound briefcase moved purposely from the side of Bush to the side of Obama. No cameras focused on him. No commentators blabbed about what he was doing or what he meant, but in a very real sense that one man’s actions represented everything that is good and right and just about America. The man is a military officer, and in his attache he carries everything that is necessary for the president of the United States to order the launch of more than 1300 nuclear weapons. One minute that power belonged to Bush. The next, a man unobtrusively walked across the stage and gave it to Obama.