Idol Chatter

From a television–and pop culture– point of view this has been one of the longest, dramatic, and most entertaining Presidential races of all time. And it comes to an end today with the swearing in of Barack H. Obama as the first African-American President of the United States, and first post-baby-boomer President as well.
If you get a chance, I encourage you to watch (or record) as many of the Inauguration events as possible, even the events that don’t seem like they’re all that historic. They will be. And rarely will we experience the power of image–the way only television can capture it–more so than we will today. The lighted capital building. Cameras on both sides of The White House. The brightness of the Washington Monument. Abe in the spotlight. Camera crew set-ups reflecting off of the mall pool. And people. Lots of ’em. These pictures are priceless and patriotic, especially when Americans are braving 10 degree weather to be a part of history.

Today we will watch a historic procession. Then we’ll watch what Mr. Obama has called “The Most Inclusive Inauguration Ever.” Then we’ll watch a speech that is historic before it even starts. The expectations for it have been building since Dr. King preached “I Have a Dream” all those years ago.
Further, the gatherings of African-Americans who’ve been waiting for so long are historic. The unbelievable number of people on the streets of Washington is historic. The sense of optimism on the streets of Washington–and throughout the country–is historic unless you’re old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration Day. Even the parties will be historic–both in their scope as well as their scale.
And, believe it or not, even the fade-ins and fade-outs during the news coverage are historic. And compelling. And inspiring.
The power of image is strong in our culture. I can’t remember the nation’s capital looking amazingly celebrative in my lifetime. The powerful rallies of the 60s happened when I was too young to remember. Events such as the Million Man March, Promise Keepers, and other gatherings were dynamic but not universal. But the sheer images of the happy crowds around the mall area looks–through the television lens–almost like Walt Disney World without the rides. People are happy to be in line, happy to be going through security checks, happy to greet fellow Americans–regardless of skin color, age or dress code–in a spirit of unity and optimism.
When asked about what he wanted to hear in the Inauguration speech, CNN contributor David Gergen–a former Presidential advisor who knows the political importance of specifics and savvy, politics, and policies said, “I want to hear about mountaintops, not the path up the mountain.” Such is the mood in the capital. And such will be the mood in our homes, schools, restaurants, and bars as the image of a unified and celebrative nation brings a mood of hope and a sense of optimism.
At least for one, glorious day.

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