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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

President Obama.


Ms. Jossie Redmond of Mississippi at Obama Inauguration, Jan. 20, 2009.  (Reuters)

Ms. Jossie Redmond of Mississippi at Obama Inauguration, Jan. 20, 2009. (Reuters)

First, the happiest part of all: Seeing on the screen, and hearing in the announcers’ voices the words “President Obama.” It’s real. Really real.

On the warmest cold day in recent memory, we joined about 200 fellow rejoicers to watch the Inauguration at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street in the lower East Village in Manhattan. (Landmark and sunshine indeed!) If we couldn’t be in Washington—obviously the place to be on Inauguration Day—then we wanted to be in a public place with fellow citizens rejoicing to see the passing of the torch. And so, with some of the same campaign volunteers with whom we drove from Brooklyn to Philadelphia in October, we sat in a warmly crowded theater to watch on the big screen CNN’s coverage of the fulfillment of our campaign efforts. (See ‘Yes We Can Get Out the Vote’ [10/29/08] below.)

How heart-warming, how healing after a long civic drought to see nearly two million people standing between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, a sea of cheers and smiles, tears and waving flags. Millions of people happy and proud of their country, grateful and confident in a new administration of competent professionals. Including Tuskegee Airmen, survivors of the Little Rock Nine and the civil rights movement, people long denied the right to vote, and their children and grandchildren.

President Obama. Vice President Biden. Our hearts are content because we know Obama will be a real president, a conscientious guardian of the nation in the fullest sense of the word. One who is president of all the people because he looks after the interests of those who did not vote for him just as much as for those who did.

Obama’s speech was strong, crisp, vigorous; sober and serious but uplifting and confident too. It’s gonna be all right. We can work it out. Here are some of our favorite passages:

“. . . everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of our 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. . . .”

From the Inaugural Address

text + video

“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. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them . . .

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works . . .”

“. . . as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break . . .”

“Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old.

“These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

“What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”

. . . .

“So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

“In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.

“The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

“At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

‘Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.’

“America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

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