On Tuesday, Jan. 20, I witnessed something that could only be described as one of the triumphs of America’s Democratic-Republic.
On that day, through a live broadcast on msnbc.com, in The Pioneer News office in Mount Washington, with Joann Mitchell, I watched a man named Barack Hussein Obama—who was born of a black man from Kenya, and a white woman from Kansas—become the 44th president of the United States.
While I did not vote for Obama; I do not agree with him on most issues; and I would rather have seen John McCain take the oath of office, I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of pride in my country and an immense sense of hope for our future.
When I saw a black man take the oath of office on that day, I saw that in America, anything is possible.
I also witnessed something that makes America unique among the hundreds of nations on the planet when I saw the peaceful transfer of power, from one president to another.
It was as American as it could get and it showed our commitment to cooperation with one another for a better tomorrow. It’s nothing short of miraculous that we here in the United States come together every four or eight years to usher in a new president—to turn to another chapter in the history of this great land of ours.
In many places, the transfer of power is far less diplomatic and sometimes violent. As our leaders are elected to office by the will of the people, leaders in other countries come to power through violent force and bloodshed, yet here in the U.S., those who take power do so peacefully through the ballot.
Those who win the favor of the American people take power and those who do not gracefully concede to defeat.
They go home to be with their family and friends with faith in the system and the knowledge that there is always another election around the corner.
With very few exceptions, this has always been the American way and we as Americans have once again had the blessing of witnessing this with the inauguration of the 44th president.
I was moved when I saw George W. Bush shaking Barack Obama’s hand, wishing him luck in the final moments before he left office. However you feel about Obama and Bush, in those few moments of the transfer of power, they showed the cooperation and class that this country needs right now.
We have a new president and a new day has dawned in this great land of ours. We are at a crossroads. It’s time to start over and try some things differently.
Many of us don’t agree on many things, but it’s time that we all—black and white, liberal and conservative, rich and poor –come together to fix America’s problems.
Our economy is weaker than it’s been in decades, we’re involved with military conflicts at home and abroad, and more problems seem to mount one on top of the other every day.
It’s time everyone put their differences aside. It’s time that politicians in Washington, Frankfort and our communities compromise; give and take. In these extraordinary times everyone needs to be willing to make concessions for the common good.
We are a country of numerous backgrounds and perspectives. Each of us has our opinions on how things should be. Each of us has our own stories that make us unique from our fellow countrymen.
I grew up in the mostly white, mostly middle class suburbs of Mount Washington, with a single mother who had to fight to breathe because of emphazema and chronic bronchitis.
I lost her when I was 17 years old. I had to persevere through loss and grief, wondering as a teenager what the future might hold in store for me.
Fortunately I had a family who stood by me and a community that cared for me. This is my story. Now, I am a senior at Western Kentucky University and as I get ready to graduate in a few months, I find I have the same fears of uncertainty that I had as a teenager who had just lost his mother, but I face my fears with my faith in a higher power, and the hope of a brighter future for all Americans.
Things may look dim now, but this is the greatest country history has ever recorded and if we all pull together and keep the ideas we hold so dear—faith, hope and the American dream—nothing’s impossible and we will face a bright future.
So whether you voted for Barack Obama, or anyone else in power, show them respect, let them know where you stand, be involved in the system, and remember that in this country, those in power can only do what we the American people let them do.