Tuesday, January 20, 2009

'The price & the promise'

Taking the full measure of this rich, historic day is daunting. Trying to convey its import to children presents an even bigger challenge.

We're fortunate that our spawns are in their teens and were engaged (or at least aware) throughout the campaign. This evening, my wife and I sat down with them to discuss what all took place today.

We talked about the civil-rights struggle that makes Barack Obama's inauguration so significant. We shared our optimism that this President shares our generational frame-of-reference. We talked about how cool it is that he "gets" contemporary culture and embraces technology.

We discussed the security "bubble" in which the Obamas now must live and why they wore body armor on Inauguration Day. And we pointed out that patriotism doesn't always have to sound like country music and look like a NASCAR infield -- sometimes, it sounds like a Kenyan folk song and looks like the colorful mass of humanity that gathered today on the National Mall.

Then we encouraged our spawns to keep one particular memory of this day, a specific passage from Pres. Obama's inaugural address.

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge..."
I looked up and noticed that both spawns were listening intently. I continued.

"...firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

"This is the price and the promise of citizenship."

The promise of athletic ability can't be realized without paying the price of practice and conditioning; intelligence, without study and application, is squandered; and so it is with our precious citizenship. They got it.

The promise is before us as well as within us. The price that We, The People are willing to pay -- service and sacrifice, blood and treasure, shedding dogma in favor of pragmatism that paves to road to better days -- will be not just the product of our representative republic but the personal choice of each independent citizen.

Our peaceful transfer of power is complete. Tonight a free people celebrates the envy of the world. Tomorrow we go back to work.

* * *
I take this moment to honor the service of George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States. Whether or not I agree with his politics and policies, I can't deny that he handled the transition with class. For that, he has my respect. Godspeed, Mr. Bush.