Sunday, January 18, 2009

History


As we get closer to this year's inauguration of President Elect Obama, I can't help but reflect on a few things.

It just so happens that, currently, I am reading Living History, the autobiography of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I've never before read an autobiography of a former First Lady, or President, and have found it much more enlightening than I expected. Sure, the political aspect is somewhat interesting but it's the personal notes that have really caught my attention. I had never before thought about the excitment that a family experiences upon moving to the White House for the first time. I suppose I had always assumed that seasoned politicians were somewhat immune to that kind of thing. Clinton describes their complete awe at moving to such a historic home and being such an important part of history. So now, as I watch the Obama family begin to take the same journey, I'm filled with excitment (especially for the two young girls) almost as though I could feel theirs myself (which I'm sure I can't).

Adding to my new perspective is a special about the White House that I happened to catch on C-Span last night (The White House: Inside America's Most Famous House). It wasn't anything fancy. It included some interviews with historians, preservation committee members, the First Lady and President but it also showed video and photos of more than just the public rooms of the house. It was an enlightening history of how the house became a home and all the work that former first families put into making it the grand estate it is now. I highly recommend you try and catch it if you can.

Of course, there is the obvious reflection: this is one of the most historic inaugurations we have ever witnessed. Whether or not one likes Obama and his ideas I could only hope that everyone realizes the significance of his presidency. As the first African-American to ever be elected president he is fufullling the dreams of the ancestors of so many. Could the historic train ride on Lincoln's route and using Lincoln's bible for his inauguration have ever held so much meaning? I doubt it. At the end of the C-Span special, one of the historians commented (and I quote loosely) that Obama is "not only moving into a house built for him but he is moving into a house built by his ancestors." (I wish I could remember the exact quote because I'm sure I haven't effectively communicated the feeling it evoked when I heard it.)

This year, without a doubt, I will be watching the inauguration and I'm very excited about it.

*Photo titled "Mr. Lincoln, we have a new president..." by Tony the Misfit (on Flickr)