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Regardless of party affiliation, Obama’s swearing-in ceremony a source of pride

January 25, 2009 - Kelly Valeri
As I watched the live coverage of Inauguration Day on TV, my attention was often interrupted by the toddler at my feet, handing me the contents of her mini ball pit, one by one.

At times, I had to walk away completely to prevent her from scattering a stack of magazines on the floor, putting something in her mouth she shouldn’t have or break her grasp on our dog’s ears. We even had to pause for a snack and a trip upstairs to find her favorite book.

But even with the distractions taking me away from such an enormous historic event, I couldn’t help but welcome the reason for it.

My daughter might just grow up thinking that having a black president isn’t extraordinary. That skin color doesn’t make you different or lessen your abilities or aptitude. And it certainly isn’t a limitation.

Just a few generations ago, it was not only impossible, but something most thought they’d never see in their lifetime.

Years from now, when my daughter is old enough to grasp the significance of Barack Obama’s presidency, I wonder what I’ll be able to share with her.

I won’t have a T-shirt or a button or a commemorative plate. I probably won’t save the Newsweek with his likeness on the cover that is sitting on our kitchen table. And I didn’t make the trek to Washington to witness it firsthand like millions of others.

But I will be able to tell her that, in many ways, Obama’s swearing-in ceremony transcended political differences and party lines.

I’ll tell her that regardless of which candidate people voted for, whether they identified with liberal or conservative ideals, or agreed with his policies or not, that moment was something all Americans could be proud of.

I’ll tell her that people celebrated around the globe. That it put a symbolic end to the bigotry that plagued our nation for years. That it was an example for other countries at war over religious differences and hatred. A reason to believe that someday, even genocide could come to an end.

I’ll tell her that there were so many flags waving in the National Mall that from a distance, it looked like the ground was sparkling. That there were faces of all ages and races in the crowd, but they all wore the same expression of hope.

I’ll tell her it was the largest inaugural gathering in history, and police didn’t make one arrest — a true testament to the man who brought them together.

I’ll tell her how he led by example to focus not on what makes us different, but on our common goals. How in the midst of economic calamity and hardship, he tried to inspire the nation to roll up our sleeves and get to work to ensure that she wouldn’t have to set her sights lower than I did.

I’ll tell her how proud I felt to be alive to witness such a monumental event. That even I wasn’t sure I would get to be a part of something that shattered so many invisible barriers all at once.

I’ll also be able to tell her that she was there. How I held her in my arms as I tried to absorb the moment.

And that with hard work, determination and the right attitude, she really can grow up to be anything she wants to be.


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