Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes, We Did

Amid all the images, words and music of the day is the still astonishing fact that an African-American became president of the United States and reminded us that "a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

As in his campaign, Barack Obama acknowledged the past but did not dwell on it. His Inaugural Address was about the future and its challenges:

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act--not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions--who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

To the world beyond our shores, the new president reaffirmed his intention to connect rather than conquer:

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

At the close of the event witnessed by more people around the world than any other in history, it was 87-year-old Joseph Lowery who had the final word in his invocation and brought a smile to the face of the new president:

"Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen"

Amen and Amen to that.

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