A Moment Of Pride; An Invitation To Greatness

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[The Presidential Inauguration]

On January 11, 1989 in his formal goodbye to the nation, President Ronald Reagan said:

"The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the ‘shining city upon a hill.’"

President Reagan was quoting John Winthrop, a pilgrim who in 1630 was seeking a homeland that would be free. Since America’s inception, Americans have struggled to build that "shining city", a country that would live up to the principles and precepts that the founding fathers so eloquently articulated in the Declaration of Independence and later in the Constitution.

From the Three Fifths Compromise, Fugitive Slave Provision, and the allowance of slaves to be imported for twenty-one years after the adoption of the Constitution to the illegal occupation of Iraq, torture, warrantless wiretapping, and extraordinary renditions, America has endured numerous challenges to its principles, values, and ideals.

The most recent examples of these ethical compromises or lapses have left many people wondering if that beacon of light would continue to shine.

On January 20, 2009 with the inauguration of America’s 44th President, its first African American President, America takes a giant step toward reclaiming its light. This is the moment for Americans to be proud and an invitation for this country to truly be great again.

President Obama gave his inaugural address from the steps of a Capitol built in 1793 by slaves who were kept in pens just yards from where he stood. He and his family will live in a house constructed in 1792 by slaves who toiled in Virginia quarries to dig and transport the stones and lumber used to build the residence.

The irony is mind boggling; two hundred and nineteen years later an African American is sworn into the highest office in the land. Finally, the two disparate narratives have merged; truly a moment for all Americans to be proud.

From this moment has come the opportunity to reclaim greatness. President Obama has called upon Americans to face the "gathering clouds and raging storms" by remaining "faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents."

He has called for the American collective "to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics...and to… choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

President Obama has made it very clear that true greatness can only be achieved through commitment, sacrifice, and hard work by saying, "…we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Some view this historic event in the context of Dr. King and the fulfillment of The Dream. Never confuse a down payment with the balance being paid. The Dream was never about electing an African American President. The Dream was about brotherhood, freedom, and justice for the least of us so that the true meaning of the American creed can be enjoyed by all of us. As Dr. King said, "And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true."

The racial disparities and injustices that Dr. King fought against still exist in America today. The election and inauguration of President Obama does not negate the fact that he has received more death threats than any elected official in the history of this nation. The Dream cannot be fulfilled when a candidate for President has to run a deracialized campaign in order to make the masses comfortable with the obvious aesthetic.

The inauguration of President Obama does not negate the reality of Driving While Black, disproportionate rates of unemployment, high school dropouts, incarceration; death by hypertension, heart disease, and cancer in the African American community. This inauguration is a great step forward in America but remember we have miles to go before we sleep.

As Dr. King the realist and prophet stated in his famous I Have a Dream speech, "We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now… Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy—It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment."

President Obama told the nation, "That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood… our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

So as American’s bask in this moment and celebrate the accomplishment they should never lose site of the challenges that lie before them. The greatness of this moment lies not in the moment itself but in the potential of what it can become.

President Obama did not talk about his personal accomplishment; he spoke about the American collective; We the People. "At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents."

This democracy only works when We the People see to it that it does. If America is to be a great nation again, its creed, The Dream must become true. So it was at the founding of this great nation; so it will be going forward.

God Bless President Obama!

Black Star News columnist Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "On With Leon," a regular guest on CNN’s Lou Dobb’s Tonight, and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: wjl3us@yahoo.com.

© 2009 InfoWave Communications, LLC.

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