Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our People, Our Past, Our Present, Our Potential

As I watched the festivities surrounding the 2nd Inauguration of President Obama, I became nostalgic for past inaugural events having witnessed them both on TV and in person as a member of the Washington, D.C. community since 1977.

Having attended two U.S. Presidential Inaugural Balls cemented my desire to be part of U.S. History and the celebration of one of America’s democratic traditions. Witnessing in person the oath taking and inauguration of at least two Philippine Presidents puts me in double historical delight as a dual citizen by choice.

Our People, Our Future

“Our People, Our Future” - this is the theme that President Obama’s spokespersons said about his inaugural speech. Indeed, it was a talk that focused on the American people – its past and its present. It gave great importance to posterity – “America’s limitless possibilities”, potentials and promises of tomorrow.

The President stressed the founding principles under which America was formed as a nation. He reiterated and reaffirmed the country’s values, creed, and beliefs. He quoted the declaration:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The inauguration was full of symbolisms. Obama chose the bibles of Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. to swear into as he took his Presidential oath. Lincoln is credited for abolishing slavery, thus – elevating and affirming the freed slaves’ unalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  MLK, Jr. is the hero of the civil rights movement whose “day” is concurrently celebrated with the 2nd Presidential Inauguration of Obama – a beneficiary of the two martyrs’ historical efforts.

Both Lincoln and King, Jr. delivered immortal speeches; Lincoln, the “Gettysburg Address”; King, Jr., the “I Have a Dream” speech. Both were assassinated while leading the fight for human equality!

As he extolled the role of America’s heroes and forefathers in the past for the sake of yesterday’s tomorrow, he likewise recognizes the responsibilities of the current generation to posterity.

Like his idols he perorated, “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.”

His was a call to action. He challenged all Americans to work together for climate change, for gay rights, for immigration, for women’s rights,  and for gun control. He challenged all of us to join him in building a “modern economy that requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.”

He reiterated our commitment not only to our ideals but more so to each other. He asserted that the commitments of programs such as “Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

President Barack Obama’s speech was indeed inspiring as written and motivating as delivered. It was issue-oriented as it was program-directed. The message was quite clear – the Constitution, the declared democratic principles and past works of patriots have protected and sustained us to enjoy the present. But we, as a people, must now accept the responsibility for the sake of posterity as we rally around the same creed.

As he challenged Americans, Obama reminded me of the late President John F. Kennedy’s historic dictum in his inauguration: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

As Obama reminds us of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream, I remember the words of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy on his own dream: “Some people dream of things that are, and say why. I dream of things that never were, and say, why not?”

As Obama dreams of a brighter future for America, I am reminded of what Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Life, indeed, is all about dreams. “Dream, dream, dream,” sang the Everly Brothers.

“Dream the impossible dream. Fight the unbeatable foe. Strive with your last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable star,” Joe Darion proclaimed.

On my end, I reiterate what I wrote two and a half years ago:

“To me, by all means let us all dream. For it is in dreaming that we hope; it is in hoping that we live; it is in living that we fight; and it is in fighting that we succeed.”



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