And so America begins a new chapter in the experiment conceived by an unlikely collection of farmers, soldiers and gentlemen who placed everything they had on the line for the liberty they cherished above all. The inauguration of the first African-American as the 44th President of the United States is one of those rare sea-changing events that has managed to capture the imagination of so many in America and around the world. Where the flight of history and its more fickle companion called fate will ultimately take Mr. Obama and the nation he will head is, at this point, unknowable to us. But a remarkable surge of events that could not have been thought of, much less predicted, even a year ago, appears underway that is carrying America and beyond to a very different place in the history of modern governance. Few presidents have arrived in office on the wings of such goodwill and cheerfulness. Fewer still have stood to take their oath at such a defining moment of profound economic unease.
It is the duty of each generation to rekindle the flame of hope that beats within the human heart from birth. For some generations, this means defending freedom at a time of peril. America’s founders took their stand on that ground, as do its sons and daughters today serving, with their Canadian and British counterparts, in Afghanistan. For other generations, the challenge comes in creating and building and in stirring the seeds of innovation that can unburden people from disease, from hunger and from drudgery. Both kinds of challenges face America today. The forces arrayed may be formidable, but around the world there is a common desire to see America succeed as there has seldom been before. And for the first time perhaps in generations, a feeling abounds that a new flame of hope is also being inaugurated in Washington today. In that flame, and in the man whom destiny has charged to hold it, we see a glimmer, perhaps even the prospect, of a brighter, more peaceful and more confident planet.
This is perhaps what can happen when a man is judged by the content of his character, as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. taught, at long last.