At last

I wore a blue top, white pearls and my red frames today — well, OK, I always wear my red frames — and a pair of shiny new shoes. Just a dash of commemoration flavour for the day. I’ve only ever done this for National Day, but the more the merrier, maybe.

So about the inauguration ceremony itself — just some simple thoughts to share:

  • I marvelled at President Obama’s (first!) inauguration speech — though seemingly (perhaps purposely) underwhelming at first, there is much to savour and ponder for anyone who cares to pay heed. Quite a bit of it had no direct significance for me, not being a citizen of that country. But we can all draw from its themes. The most stirring bit for me was this (any descendant of immigrants, as I am, can lay claim to a similar history, a familiar story):

    Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

    For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.

    For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

    For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

    Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

  • I thought that Elizabeth Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day” sounded like a competing speech — but I agree that the inauguration speech, poem and benediction put together form a bigger sum than smaller parts.
  • I felt graced by Reverend Joseph Lowery’s benediction.

As for the ever-engaging and varied interpretations and impressions of The Historic Day, I can only catch up slowly. So far the impressively articulate Ken Burns has been the gushiest of them all, albeit elegantly so:

All of our great heroes are actually less than what we make them out to be, and I’ve always struggled with that over the course of studying American history. What I’ve come to understand and what I know that this president that we have today understands is that the difference between, say, how Abraham Lincoln actually was and how we make him, is our wish for ourselves.

And it’s time for me to call it a day/night.


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