Witnessing history in the making
My wife and I took our daughters to Washington to let them be part of the political changing of guard, and to experience firsthand the change in power at the epicenter of the American — and perhaps world’s — sociopolitical sphere. We felt it important that we all have our own first-hand accounts of what Washington, D.C. was like within hours of the changing of the guard over on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Who are we kidding? She and I were dying to be part of the most historic moment in post-Vietnam (is that qualifier needed even?) American history. What we found is worth attempting to describe.
Water and politics do mix
It was the power of Niagara and Victoria Falls combined. All the people we encountered seemed charged up. The full weight of past experiences that had dammed their ambition gave way to the extraordinary current that would be held no longer. As tons upon tons of water hurtles down the face of the falls, crashing into deepening gorges beneath, so these American and international participants also seemed to already be firm in their expectation that they would carve new paths for themselves.
The energy in the city was extraordinary for how different it was compared to the “normal” frenetic pace of Washington, D.C. This energy was not related to the workweek’s pace, nor the legislative process playing out. It was not the result of government employees hurrying to Metro stops at the day’s end.
People who previously perceived limits on their progress now believe the dam has burst and their successes and failures will be exclusively the domain of their own performance.
Perception is reality
I sensed people who always felt they followed all the rules but never got truly equal access, get that look in their eyes. I saw well-to-do executives mingled with earnest inauguration committee student volunteers, striding with hip-hop heads, each trying to wrap their minds around the new regime and the resulting opportunities for them to be more equal. The tone at the individual tables full of revelers was more eager. The look in the eyes of the volunteers more assured. The will of the people more wanting of a new day.
And on Tuesday, we will all get it. None of these folks were naively standing by, waiting for President Obama to be sworn in, flip the switch and make Utopia erupt. They were simply feeling the power of men and women; young adults and old; hoping that one, seemingly-unconquerable dam had given way to the indefatigable spirit of equality. For once!
They seemed to say, “I am part of the solution now.” While the falls might convey the sense of power we felt, the magic of the moment was in how positively that energy was being focused.
Power alone is nothing without direction
It was the raw energy Michelangelo must have felt when a slab of marble evaporated beneath his chisel to become something the world would cherish (yes, I know most artists are tortured souls never satisfied with their own genius). This is the childish glee of riding a bicycle for the first time, unfettered by either training wheels or the assuring and simultaneously handicapping aid of a parent (yes, I know the child will suffer the inevitable scrapes and bruises). But the enthusiasm will not be defeated. It is as indefatigable as the flowing falls. It is freedom. Not just from the control of other people, but the freedom to fully define your own path, not need anyone else’s validation, and the power, the current, to power yourself to new accomplishments.
Freedom means these people have a renewed passion for using their abilities and talents to create the powerful current of change that will return America to its place of power. The energy I felt was that of an enormously powerful and positive people, collectively roaring to life, preparing for the destiny we will become.
Yes, I sincerely believe a more evolved, inclusive America is possible
My only prayer is that once the euphoria of the moment has faded, we will retain the power, positivity, and focus I felt in our nation’s capital this weekend. If we do, then like water rushing over a cliff with an inevitable destination, those energized, empowered people’s passion will make Obama’s vision real.