I’m on a mailing list of people with whom I served in the Peace Corps in west Africa more than thirty years ago. I’m kind of astonished at the emotion that’s been flowing there. People that I’ve considered hard-core skeptics are exultant; the joy is palpable. It’s even gotten to me. I’m a cynical jaded old man; or, at the very least, I’m not yet petitioning the Pope to have Obama declared a living saint. But I must admit, I was very moved by some of the show at the Lincoln Memorial the other day — Ashley Judd and Forrest Whitaker quoting JFK and Faulkner on the values and duties of the artist, among other moments–and wept to see Pete Seger singing This Land is Your Land, even the famous, often bowdlerized verse about the sign that said ‘private property'(“but on the other side, it didn’t say nothing. That side was made for you and me.”). Sung to a joyous multitude that came in a whole passel of different body types and skin tones.
Obama said today:
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, 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.
Today I’ll cast off my cynicism for at least a few hours and revel in the dream that maybe, just maybe, after our disastrous eight year experimentation with monarchy, we are again a republic. So here’s to us.