When I was in the eighth grade in Springfield, Mo., I was in the "Broadcaster" class -- a group of students who, in addition to regular science, math, history, gym, and English classes, also produced the school newspaper. It was a good group -- some of the brightest and best students of my generation were in that classroom. I was privileged to be there and learned a great deal, and inclusion very likely influenced my choice of careers.
That was the year of Nixon and Kennedy. Nixon came to Springfield. *I* was a Nixon supporter, I'm embarrassed to say, probably for no other reason than my dad was a Republican (yes, I came from a split home: my mother was a Democrat, and one of my early memories of politics is them arguing over Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower...)
But Kennedy won. And I remember watching the inauguration at school (they brought in TVs when something historic was happening, like the space launches or the inauguration). I remember tottery Robert Frost reciting his poem The Gift Outright -- not the original poem he had written because he couldn't see past the glaring sun.
And I remember writing a poem myself, at the request of the teacher, for the newspaper (I was sort of the class's poet). I don't know that I still have the text, but it was titled After the Ball, and referenced the heavy load that the new, young, bright-shining President would assume after the balls, the festivities were over.
Today, as I watched Barack Obama take the oath of office under cold, sunny skies in Washington, I remembered Kennedy's inauguration too -- the hope, the promise, the winds of change that accompanied him into the White House. And I cried a little, and a little more when the Rev. Joseph Lowery gave his stirring benediction.
With this new president, we baby boomers have passed the torch to a new generation. For one, I am hopeful and optimistic, along with the millions and millions of people who watched today's ceremony either from the Washington mall or on streets all over the world or in the quiet of their own living rooms. The collective energy is almost palpable, even from here in my home.
For today, there is hope. There is love and courage and faith and trust. There is joy at the realization of the dreams and courage of a generation now as old and older than I.
I am reveling in this feeling today, energy boosted, connection with the world heightened. I know it will fade. I know our new president will make mistakes. I know things will not instantly improve.
But for today -- which in the end is all we ever have -- I am grateful for this feeling, for this opportunity, and I will add my voice to the collective energy of so many others who are praying for change, who are grateful for new beginnings, and who believe in the possibilities. To do otherwise is to deny the power of the universe and ourselves to turn things around.