President Obama's Second Inaugural: A Relay Race Toward Justice

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[Eye Witness To History]

Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermon on Inaugural Sunday was titled, “They're Watching in the Stands.”  

Chapel on the Howard University campus was filled to capacity as Rev.
Wright spoke of a relay race toward equality.

He preached of ancestors
watching this race for equality to see if their work was in vain.

head of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Wright spoke of
an obligation to carry on the work of those who had already sacrificed
themselves as well as a duty to create a better world for those yet

The entire inaugural week-end was a testament to service and hope for the future. 

Saturday of Inaugural week-end, a Day of Service program brought
together thousands of volunteers. Organizations manned booths to
disseminate information about their mission and need for assistance.  

to volunteer were mixed with musical guests., Later that day at The
Kids’ Inaugural, instituted by President Obama during his prior term,
toddlers and teens celebrated the inauguration with celebrities Usher
and Nick Cannon as well as members of GLEE and singer Katy Perry. 

Sunday, the President was sworn into office by Chief Justice John
Roberts. It was the official swearing-in required by the Constitution to
take place on January 20th following the election.  

On Monday, the
public inauguration took place before a million spectators. Those who
remembered the frigid temperatures of the last Obama inaugural were
pleased to have warmer weather. Dr. Myrlie Evers, widow of slain NAACP
voting rights activist, Medgar Evers, gave the invocation. Dr. Evers
asked God for the strength to make a better world for all.

Barack H. Obama gave an inaugural speech that was deep in spirit and
broad in scope. He spoke of the obligation and duty to the present as
well as to generations of Americans to come. It lasted only eighteen

The crowd, eager for every word, heard the President say,
“freedom is not reserved to the lucky.” And, he assured them that
“security and peace do not require perpetual war.” The President
condemned the “shrinking few” who “do better than the many.” He spoke of
issues as broad as climate change, gay rights, and immigration.

thousands stood along the parade route waiting to see that bullet-proof
Presidential Cadillac called “the beast.” They cheered, calling the
president's name. Tens of thousands waited in line in now frigid night
air to enter the Convention Center for one of two official Balls
celebrating the inauguration.  

Long gowns flowed as did the champagne. 

President, wearing a Black tuxedo, and Michelle, in a red gown, danced
to “Let’s Stay Together.” They embraced before a swooning audience of
on-lookers who admired the Obamas love and respect for each other. 

volunteers and contributors who had fought for that love to exist in
the White House for another four years drank in the momentary time of
political peace.

That celebratory night would soon end. Time goes quickly. It was 150 years ago that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.  

was 50 years ago that the 16th Street Church in Birmingham was bombed
and four little girls were killed. And, it was on that Inaugural Monday
that this country celebrated the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

revealed by Rev. Wright, the ancestors are watching this race for
equality. It is a relay. President Obama has been handed the baton.

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate
Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College in New York City, is
author of “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present,” and a
legal correspondent covering the U.S. Supreme Court. She covered the
Presidential Campaign and Inauguration.

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