Last week I accidentally ended up watching President Barack Obama's second inauguration. It was accidental in that I originally had no intention of watching the event, but I was home for lunch and turned on the TV and so many stations were carrying the ceremony that I just left it on. I believe I may have become a bit jaded (apathetic, cynical, snackered, disgusted) regarding politics and thought of the inauguration as little more than politics.
As I watched and listened to the event, however, my cynicism slowly disappeared and in its place was a great feeling of patriotism - the kind of patriotism I remembered from watching the movies in the 1940s with the American Bombers, the B-17 Flying Fortresses flying overhead to win WWII.
That feeling particularly came from watching the crowds on the National Mall at the inauguration waving their flags and the singers: James Taylor ("America the Beautiful"), Kelly Clarkson (My Country 'Tis of Thee) and Beyonc ("The Star Spangled Banner.") And no, it did not bother me that Beyonc lip-synched. She did the "Star Spangled Banner" with great feeling in her voice whether it was taped or not.
Equal with the patriotic songs was the poem by the Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco.
There are different versions that have appeared in the media, but if you didn't get to hear the presentation and have not yet read the poem, I give you just a small sample of the opening lines of his poem, "One Today":
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
I hope that might whet your appetite to find and read the entire poem.
Of course there have been many other times when I have stood in awe of our great country. As you readers probably know, I have always loved to travel. One of the places I wish that every American citizen could visit is Washington, D.C. There are so many places there that inspire.
Having been fortunate enough to be there many times, I wish that all citizens could experience climbing the steps at the Lincoln Memorial and the commanding presence of his seated statue with his words of the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address around him. I am sure that most of you can recite some or all of his Gettysburg Address, but the Second Inaugural Address is less familiar, but let me remind you with a few lines:
"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away." And
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds"
Not far from the Lincoln Memorial is one of the most beautiful and one might even say, the most peaceful of the presidential memorials: The Jefferson Memorial.
But also close at hand are other war memorials, the wall for the
Vietnam War, and the fountain and statues for WWII. And across the Potomac in Arlington Cemetery, I hope everyone visiting Washington, D.C. can experience and reflect on our history and the lives of those defending democracy during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Now going back to last week's Inauguration, the pictures of the Capitol Building should also make us proud that our country has a government that is of the people, the Capitol itself where our representatives meet.
The Capitol's cast iron dome weighing in at 8,909,200 pounds is a fitting structure to symbolize our democracy. Though the main entrance for visitors as well as legislators and others is generally on the east side, the Inaugural Ceremony was on the western side overlooking the Mall. President Reagan in 1981 set the trend of having the ceremony on the western side. It is looking to that side that you get a good view of the five-storied structure that was originally built in 1793, but with many updates since that time.
While there are some general similarities to our own Minnesota Capitol, the Minnesota Capitol was actually modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and is the world's second largest unsupported marble dome in the world, the U.S. Capitol being of iron construction. Incidentally, the Taj Mahal is also a marble domed structure.
The Minnesota Capitol, designed by Cass Gilbert, was begun in 1896 and completed in 1905. Viewing the Capitol most people immediately notice the gold statue of the four horses, representing the power of nature: Earth, Wind, Fire, Water. The women leading the horses represent civilization and the man in the chariot represents prosperity.
Hope you enjoyed the history lesson!
Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!