Witnessing History: Barack Obama Becomes President

Yesterday, we witnessed history-in-the-making; NY Times headline reads: Obama Takes Oath, and Nation in Crisis Embraces the Moment. Wherever we were, whatever ethnic, political or religious backgrounds we have, we were all aware of the momentous occasion and place in history January 20, 2009 will forever hold. I was glad to be alive, to see it with my own eyes; to hear the prayers, and Obama’s speech as it happened and to see all the people spilled out across the landscape of downtown DC was very moving.

I took our daughter to a friend’s house from Church, and there I got to witness this event with our one-year old child. That was what really made it special for me. L clapped every time someone in the room clapped, and stood front-and-center engrossed by the TV while Obama spoke.This is the world she is born into and this is her president. Barack Obama will be the president she remembers when she gets older, just as Reagan is the first I remember even though Carter was in office when I was born.

I hope and pray, along with every parent in my generation, that our children will see a country that truly lives up to its beliefs about freedom and equality for all. I also hope and pray our world will be a little more peaceful, a little more just for those who are in debilitating poverty, stable so that we have something worthwhile to pass down to younger generations. Yesterday, felt like a great celebration. We all know Obama won’t usher in the Kingdom of God and he certainly will stumble and make mistakes (some of which will the church will be unhappy about), but hopefully he will do his best, make wise judgments, remain open to criticism, listen to others, show integrity and honesty, and hopefully that will make a difference for her world.

Yesterday, I was happy to be living. Yesterday, it was a beautiful day to be an American.

One of my favorite parts of the whole ceremony was Rev. James Lowery’s benediction:

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Full text provided by the Associated Press.

Who did you watch the inauguration with? What are you hopes and prayers?

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

5 thoughts on “Witnessing History: Barack Obama Becomes President”

  1. I posted about it on my blog, but in short, I was able to watch it here in Rwanda, with an American family and three Rwandan men who speak no english. I was moved by the whole ceremony, but was even more moved to watch the Rwandans hang on every word. At the end the men said, "It is amazing to see this happen so peacefully. In Africa, no one comes to power without killing the last leader." I was reminded of the example that the American democratic system sets, even if I feel it is so broken.

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