Making hope real

I arrive at the Washington Mall at 6 a.m. It is still dark and very cold, but already there are thousands of us here, moving swiftly toward our destination and daybreak. We are every kind of American, representative of the truth that we the people are a community rich with diversity and destiny.In my head, I hear a voice say, ” Wait, did I just call myself an American?” For the first time in my life I am willing to embrace my national identity. As an African-American, I’ve always felt like my homeland’s unwanted step child. The history of my people in this nation has often been a tale of abuse, denial and disempowerment even as we fought to claim our right to live as a valued and respected citizenry. Today, the inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States of America awakens within me a feeling I’ve never had. I have longed to feel that I belong and am beloved by my country. Barack Obama’s victory tells me that it is possible for someone who looks like me to engender trust, respect and admiration from the diverse multitude that comprises our nation. Entrusting a black man with the highest authority in the land indicates a seismic cultural shift toward inclusivity. Oppression, in all its various forms, has not shriveled up and died, but have we reached a place where more of us are inspired to courageously and respectfully engage across our differences toward the vision of a United States where EVERYONE is valued?As I wait in the cold for the moment when Obama ascends the podium and takes the oath that makes the unimaginable real, I overhear a fellow observer say into his cell phone, “I’m here on the Mall with about 2 million of my new best friends.” I smile and look around. That’s how I want to imagine all of us and how I want to be seen. Can we be a nation of potential friends who work together as we face these difficult times? Can we create a new American dream of community and kinship? On this day, I dare to hope that yes, we can.