Saturday, January 24, 2009

People who know me...

...might describe me as a crusty old curmudgeon. I don't go in much for ceremony or formality. I've often told my sons that if I ever met the Queen of England I would call her "Elizabeth." None of this "Your Majesty" stuff for me! I might even mention that my grandmother was known as "Bess" or that I had an Aunt Betty, too. (Boy, she was the one, let me tell you...) And if I ever get invited to the White House for dinner (I'm talking to my kids, remember), I wouldn't call the president "Mr. President," certainly not George Bush. After all, I'm an American, an egalitarian; no one's better than me and I'm no better than anyone else! For emphasis I poke myself in the chest with my thumb and thrust out my jaw.

And as for ceremony, like an inauguration, who cares? Hurry up, say the oath, and get back to work! We're paying you a lot of money. I went to Jimmy Carter's Inauguration and just stood in the snow and froze my butt off. I couldn't even hear anything I was so far away, and I nearly got trampled afterwards by the unruly crowd. No more inaugurations for this guy! Again with the thumb and jaw.

So it was with this crabbed outlook that I approached this year's inauguration. Get on with it, already! But a funny thing happened. I started watching it and was taken in by the spectacle. I don't know if it was because it was the first black president, or if it was because the Bush Years were finally coming to an end, or if it was Obama himself. But I was quite moved by the whole thing and actually listened to his speech, another thing I don't usually do. It was quite an event; truly a great day for America and the world. As Chris Matthews observed, a member of Obama's father's tribe was elected President of the United States; that hasn't even happened yet in Kenya! As Jay Black and the Americans would say, or in this case, sing: "Only in America." I asked my mother if this is what it was like when Kennedy was sworn in and she said "Yes, and FDR, too." I think everyone who watched it will remember it as a watershed event in their lives.

And I think if I ever get the privilege of meeting Barack Obama I'll call him...Mr. President.

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