just came back from watching the inauguration at ganalle's in downtown dakar with a bunch of other peace corps volunteers. they opened early for us and we all showed up around 3pm, giddy with anticipation and marveling over the gigantic crowds in washington, dc. even though i was awed by the size of the audience there in america, i was glad to be in senegal, in dakar, with my peace corps community, watching from across the ocean and experiencing this moment in history in a strange corner of the world.
and even though we were in a little bar tucked away in dakar, far away from it all, when the inauguration began, we cheered and whooped and clapped. we stood and sang and held our hands over hearts and mostly, we celebrated the inauguration of barack hussein obama as our 44th president as citizens and servants of the united states of america. it was really thrilling. my heart swelled and was close to bursting.
as i watched the pomp and circumstance and marveled over the "traditions" of the way inaugurations go, i suddenly realized just how big of a deal it is that this transition of power is so peaceful and smooth. as silly as it may seem that certain figures march out with the other or that the process of one family moving in and the other moving out at nearly the same exact moment is precisely orchestrated, it is simply amazing that this transition occurs with no blood running in the streets or buildings being charred or crowds being trampled. the pomp and circumstance is -- in a way -- a blessing and a testimony to what our country stands for. i guess i never even bothered to truly think about it until in a country on a continent where these kinds of things (changes/transitions of power) hardly ever happen without a coup d'etat (mauritania), fraud (zimbabwe), violence (kenya), angry public protest (guinea), or at least days of contention or delay about who actually won (ghana). (granted we had the whole bush/gore debacle but other then chads littering the floor -- or the lack thereof -- there was no blood streaming the grounds.)
it was really an amazing moment and i can't even believe that i had originally planned to skip the whole thing and stay in the village -- where i don't even have a radio! -- and just read the speech later. silly. it was definitely worth watching and i will be glued to the news for the next few days to see what will happen.
and the speech! what a punch it packed. what sent chills up my spine was when he said, "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." what wise words -- and i don't see them applying only to the leaders of countries or nations but to all people.
will i be one who builds or one who destroys?
obama, i can't do much right now then chant, "obama! obama!" from here across the atlantic and drink to your health and i doubt you can hear me or the tons of others here that are cheering for you but we are and will and look to the day “when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead man and when white would embrace what is right.”