As I leave Southern California in route to the inauguration, I cannot help but think of the throng of masses who gathered to witness the historical 2009 inauguration. People from all walks of life... all ages, all ethnicities, joined to celebrate the election of an African-American man to the presidency.
I will never forget the many elderly black people, some being pushed in wheelchairs, who braved extremely cold weather and long lines to witness what most of them surely thought they would never see in their lifetime.
It was indeed a celebration. The 2009 inauguration seemed a tribute, honoring all who came before Obama and paved his way -- especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is the greatest of coincidences that inauguration weekend falls on King's birthday weekend. Especially for this president. Who better represents King's dreams for his children?
This inauguration there is no doubt the crowds will be thinner (if you can call the nearly 800,000 expected a thin crowd) and the pomp and circumstance will be toned down a bit. And looking at the past four years, as the country struggled out of a recession and the displayed ugliness of those not quite ready to accept an African-American President (some in Congress) -- we wonder: "Should we celebrate?"
Most recently there was Sandy Hook, which was the latest in a series of attacks that make us look at guns and our violent culture. One longs for the message of non-violence that was the cornerstone of King's crusade.
And what about the impoverished -- the folk that King fought so hard for. Many of our families are still struggling. We know this. The recent frigid weather in Southern California brought long lines, including families who have been living in cars and vans, to homeless shelters.
So much to be done. I am reminded of King's "Mountaintop" speech, the one he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated, in which he stated there would be "difficult days ahead." We have some difficult days ahead as we grapple with a divided nation and fear of change. And we think: "How dare we celebrate when there is still much to be done."
Nevertheless -- this time it is different. This time it is about us.
The 2013 inauguration is recognition of the power of like-minded people of various races to unite. The disenfranchised and the disrespected who stood up to say, "Wait a minute, this is my country too!"
It is being called a New America, but I think it's just America -- the greatest democracy in the history of the earth. Some don't like it when the new face of America is not one they are familiar with -- it doesn't look like them. But, the truth is America belongs to all of us. It is our diversity that makes us great. It also makes us argue a lot... a whole lot.
Still, we move forward and this is what we will celebrate during the coming inauguration. A country that brought us Lincoln, King and Obama. Yes, I include him here because it speaks masses of a country that has twice elected Barack Hussein Obama. I think we got it right.