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David Reynolds | An old beginning

It was cold up in D.C. yesterday. Yet I felt a certain warmth radiating from my television set. Is it possible that the inauguration of a president could change our spirits from being in a winter of despair to seeing a spring with hope? It all depends. If we are talking about these United States of America, then the answer is “Yes!” Here anything is possible. We just proved it.

The inauguration of a U.S. president is a grand ceremony. It has to be in order to remind the world how we are governed. By the people. And how we transfer power. For the people. Regardless of what you may hear and read in some quarters, most on this planet still respect and envy us. Check out our immigration numbers.

Yesterday reminded me of inaugurations past. Such as back in 1965 when my wife and I were able to view the parade in honor of Lyndon Johnson from a small balcony off the Old Executive Office Building where I worked. In spite of the JFK assassination only 14 months earlier, the town was relaxed. And so was security. Then in 1977 we saw Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter walk up Pennsylvania Avenue. Oh, those where the days of wine and roses.

But let us not live in the past. America has always been about the future. And about optimism. A friend recently sent me an email reading, “Due to the economy, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.” I replied: “It will be turned back on as soon as our optimism returns.”

Later in the day waiting for the VMI Corps of Cadets to march down Pennsylvania Avenue, I thought I saw that light at the end of the tunnel. I know it wasn’t the setting sun. America has always been about something new and something old. That’s our history. We are a country that specializes in old beginnings.

Still I had a fleeting regret yesterday. I was sorry I wasn’t there. “Dave, are you nuts? You really regret not being out in that cold with outdoor plumbing and being stuck in that traffic? Not me. Thank God, or whoever invented television.”

OK, maybe you are right. I paid my utility bills and my car is safe in the garage. And since I watched C-SPAN, I did not need to have the endless and senseless utterances the networks feel obligated to feed us in their attempt to spoil the view. Example: We were constantly being told we that we are watching an historic event, when that is the job of historians, not some pretty face on Fox who never met Jim Crow in her 25 years of a charmed life.

Besides, now my Lazy-Boy chair fits. Those extra pounds around the middle sure help. And my coffee has zero chance of freezing. Still, there is nothing like being there. Al Hockaday and Dorothy Blackwell were among those from paradise. Ask them. They will tell you not to kid yourself. Sure, television can provide the sights and sounds – but never the experience.

Nine weeks ago in this space I wrote an open letter to Mr. Obama. I said that I did not vote for him. But, for better or for worse, Americans like active presidents, whether they govern from the left or the right. Now Barack Obama is our president. And we only get one at a time. So why not make the most of what we have? One way is to realize what we have in the US of A and make the most of that. America has not crossed its last frontier. Our workers’ productivity index is as high as ever. When we short sell stocks, we short sell America. Just bring back confidence and everything else will fall into place.

If you watch closely these next four years, you will likely witness two battles along the Potomac. One you may have already read about. It will be between very partisan congressional Democrats and an Obama White House attempting to unify a nation. Pray for the White House. The other will be between good economic news which may be years away and the impatience of the American people. Pray for the people.

Then there is the matter of race. On election night a black women, a Democratic strategist, walked up to her white anchor woman, shook her head and made this off air remark, “You all said you would vote for a black man. . . You all said you’d judge him on his merits, race wouldn’t stop you. I didn’t know until tonight that you meant it.” Yes, we meant it. Then as well as now. We are the same country today as we were before yesterday. Maybe we all owe each other a round of apologies.

So, what kind of day was yesterday? It was cold. But not dark. No one turned off the light at the end of the tunnel. It was just another beginning. An old beginning. America is great at reinventing itself.


– Column by David Reynolds

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