America on Parade

America on Parade
By: Deirdre McGill

The Inauguration of President Obama was an event to behold. Mr. Obama is the first presidential candidate since Kennedy to inspire me to hope and believe once again in our government. I wanted so badly to regain my lost hope in the Great Idea that is America. It seems that I am not alone. Almost 2 million people gathered in the freezing cold to be part of that historical moment.

I felt a connection Barack Obama from the first time I heard him speak but I was unsure of how mainstream America would respond to him. My grandparents are from Iowa so when the good people of Iowa voted for him in their caucuses, I knew that he had a chance to win the election. It was the Iowa spirit that kick-started Obama’s victory, placed him favorably in the national spot light, and led to this Inauguration.

When race seemed to become an issue during the campaign, Mr. Obama faced it head-on. Mr. Obama’s historic speech put American racism in perspective with grace and civility. I could feel him speaking from his heart. It was then I knew that he was the breath of compassionate and intelligent fresh air that was needed for this country to move beyond stigmatizing people based upon their skin color.

Having grown up in a middle class white neighborhood in Chicago, I knew that race was still an issue for a few of my relatives. I asked my landlord if he thought Mr. Obama had a chance to win. He said “I’m afraid the country is still too racist to elect him. People say that they will vote for him, but when they are alone in the election booth, they won’t be able to vote for a black man.” My experience with my racist family members confirmed his fear. Racism was too great – Barack Obama would never win.

Fast forward to the night of November 4, 2008: The cameras panning the crowd in Grant Park, Chicago, showed white faces, black faces, brown faces, yellow faces, red faces, rich faces, poor faces, skinny faces, fat faces, old faces and young faces all pushed together in a great sea of humanity standing and waiting for the election results, all hoping that Obama would win. The old racist Chicago surrendered and 85% of Chicago voted for Barack Obama.

That night, all of the old HATE LOST!

And the tears flowed.

By the end of this election cycle, the American people stood up and let the world know that they had enough of the hate! Something had happened that night – something deep and wonderful. Chicago changed. Cities and States across America changed. The United States changed and the world felt it.

I began to think about my relatives and their hateful words about Obama and realized that they were behind the times. Their hate felt so outdated, so old, so irrelevant. I looked at the people in Grant Park that night and saw our future. Hope Won!

And then the realization that the economy had tanked hit us like a ton of bricks.

We are now standing on the precipice of a new era. Mr. Obama has been sworn in as our President. When asked what this Inauguration means to me, my tears still flow. I am afraid and I am hopeful. I am saddened by our current state of affairs and yet I am excited that change must take place. I am overwhelmed by the number of things that need to change and wonder if one man can do it. The answer is that he can’t – not alone.

I know in my heart that I must change. That we, as the American people, must change. The glorious ride of gluttony is over and it is time for us to take stock, reevaluate, and decide what really matters. We need to rebuild for the future, not only for me, but for this country, and for our world.

Barack Obama’s words filled my heart. I heard countless others express the same feeling as tears ran down their faces. Is it Obama or is it another phenomenon? President Obama has enabled us to feel connected. Can this connection be a connection to our conscience? I know that this connection makes me vested in his success. His success is my success – our success. Has he become the conscience of America? Has he inspired millions of American to reconnect to their conscience?

I have never been so afraid of the future. Since the real estate market has stopped dead in its tracks, my clients have no work for me. There are no deals to be made – no closings to be had, and thus no work hours for me to put in. I have very little in savings and my unpaid bills continue to pile up. I have no idea what is next. And yet, I hope and my heart is filled with joy.

Mr. Obama’s theme “YES WE CAN” is a promise that has only begun to be fulfilled. I, and we as a people, must exemplify the victory of this presidency. I hereby replace “WE CAN” with the individual statement, “YES, I CAN”.

It is time for me and every American to connect with their conscience and stand up as individuals. Each of us must make the changes necessary to heal a planet that is ailing and an economy that has failed. The President cannot do it alone. The “Yes, I Can” must become “Yes, I Will” and then we must act.

I hope that we will return to a government Of the People, By the People and For the People. With the promise of transparency, the use of the internet to get ideas and feedback from the American people, and a focus on the needs of “Main Street”, I believe that we are on the right track.

I am refreshed by the realization that this Inauguration symbolizes the end of exclusivity by our government. The Inauguration ceremony and celebrations were designed to be inclusive of every American who desired to take the journey and attend. I had hoped to attend but my finances left me no option but to spend the day glued to the television watching every event – basking in the feelings of the day.

I witnessed the surrender of racism being a factor in a presidential election by the faces that filled Grant Park. It was an example of the triumph of the individual over racial hatred and stereotyping. As I watched the Inauguration, I witnessed the beginning of a renewed America. An America that will reclaim its moral high ground, rekindle its compassion and generosity, and demonstrate leadership in building a strong foundation for our economy and the future of our planet.

This Inauguration showcased America with all of its colors and creeds as they stood together in celebration of a renewal of freedom; hopes high, eyes glistening with possibility. It was truly …America on Parade!

And after years of sadness and disappointment with the direction of our country, I am again proud to say, “I am an AmerIcan!”

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