Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inaugural Concert

(Photo of Bono courtesy of Access Hollywood)

The Inaugural Concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was really something. Really something.

It wasn't just watching U2 singing "In the Name of Love" -- about Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial (not to mention E's favorite "City of Blinding Light" -- although that was truly a high point. It wasn't just Bono finishing the latter song sitting under a row of American flags. It wasn't just Garth Brooks belting out my favorite non-U2 song, "American Pie," which was followed by an energetic version of the great dance classic "Shout" (we were singing and raising our arms from the couch). It wasn't just watching Bruce Springsteen growling "The Rising," backed by a full robed choir. It wasn't just tearing up with Beyonce's soulful "America," joined by all the performers and speakers at the very close of the concert. It wasn't just hearing Josh Groban, Mary K. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Shakira, Sheryl Crow, John Legend, etc. It just wasn't our President-Elect's speech, hopeful though it was. It wasn't just the speakers like Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Queen Latifah, although Tom Hank's reading of Lincoln's words including the Gettysburg Address, was poignant.

It was sense of history. It was the words of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., the words of the latter read by his son. It was the words of past presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, FDR, and others. It was the fact that a peaceful transfer of power will be happening on Tuesday -- the 43rd time it has happened in our nation's history.

We've been studying the presidency of George Washington in our home school. The first time that a president willingly stepped down to allow another to take his place occurred in 1797 when John Adams became the second President of the United States. The world was astounded that Washington graciously handed over the reins of the country, preferring to allow the Constitution rather than a single man to rule the United States. In fact, when Washington walked away from the power of the presidency, something no European king would ever do, King George III of England marveled, "[He is] the greatest character of the age!" (Story of the World Volume 3, page 226).

So, no, I didn't vote for Obama; I voted for a different African-American candidate in a different party -- Alan Keyes. But I am willing to respect Obama as my President and to pray for his success as leader of our country. And the fact that in another day George W. Bush will willingly turn over the most powerful job in the country to not only another man but also a man of the opposite political party is the best thing about this country. A peaceful transfer of power is the most astounding thing about America. Our country was the first to do so in modern history, and although it is a common action in much of the world now, America was the pioneer of peaceful transfer of power from one president to another, astounding the world at that time.

It's easy to take this inauguration, or any inauguration, for granted; after all, it's been occurring for over 200 years. But this inauguration, and all inaugurations, show the United States for what we truly are: the pioneers of a republic that truly is, as Lincoln stated, "of the people, by the people, for the people." And that's the extraordinary thing about the concert today that celebrates our history as a people who peacefully transfer power between people as well as between political parties.

It's mind-blowing when we truly consider it.

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