To my dear daughter,
At 19 years old on the day Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as our 44th President, you are the perfect age.
You're old enough to recognize the profundity of this inauguration, yet young enough to wonder why we ever made such a big deal of such things.
President Obama took the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol and lives now in the White House, both built with the hands of slaves.
He will govern a nation in which slaves were defined as 3/5 of a person. The train car carrying the President to Washington dated to 1939, an era when "railroad porter" was a black man's dream job. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the New York Times reminds us, rioting broke out within spitting distance from the new President's Washington transition office.
Yesterday, we stopped to look over our national shoulder at the often painful view of our racial history. And then, with deliberation and intention and one hand on Lincoln's Bible, we shifted position.
We turned and fixed our gaze straight ahead, forward, to a new national future.
By 2042, those now considered racial minorities - blacks, Hispanics, and Asians - will make up the majority population. Neither this Census Bureau projection nor the election of this new President is quite the same thing as saying America is "beyond" race.
But then again, President Obama's inaugural address - like most of his campaign, save Jeremiah Wright - made only fleeting reference to his race.
"This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall," he said, "and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."
Did you notice, sweet girl, that one of the President's most persistent themes surfaced again yesterday at his luncheon?
It's not about me. It's about us.
The President's inaugural address was both sobering and inspiring, solemn and joyful. In it, he both invited and challenged us to this "new era of responsibility."
I hope that you and all other young people rush to greet this monumental job.
He is calling you, dear daughter. He is calling all of us, certainly, but I hope he's especially calling all of you. By the time you graduate from college in 2012, I hope you all will have worked hard - as students, yes, but as citizens especially.
On TV yesterday, an older black man waiting in the cold to see history told his interviewer that President Obama's election was "a miracle."
Lord, I hope not. I hope instead, daughter, it proves to you and everyone else young enough not to be cynical that when we set our mind to it, this country - we - can function as boldly and bravely as designed.
Roberta de Boer is a columnist for The Blade.
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