It is a great day to be an American. A new President, a new era for hope and change, a new chapter of history, is unfolding.
But it goes beyond our borders. More than being an American, I hope that others throughout the world feel the same pride and optimism that I feel today. It is a great day to be a citizen of this global world.
In his inauguration address, President Obama said:
“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.“
I hope that these words prove true, and that we as a nation will embrace them. We ARE all one tribe, and I have personally experienced the great things that can happen when people reach across borders, cultures, races and religions to work together to ensure human rights. It is a new kind of world, a new kind of future, that we can give children in the United States, in India, and anywhere else in the world.
President Obama’s speech reminded me of the words of another great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I thought how appropriate it was that these two days were together – MLK Day yesterday, leading into President Obama’s inauguration today. I think of Dr. King standing across the Mall on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, on that day more than 45 years ago. It took almost half a century for Dr. King’s words to make it across that expanse to the Capitol, where today they became a reality.
I hope that reality does, indeed, travel outside our borders and go a long way toward making us all one.What happens in the United States affects what happens in the rest of the world – and just as much, what happens in the rest of the world affects us just as greatly.
The words that Dr. King spoke in a 1967 address in New York City, that I was reminded of this morning, are:
“The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.”
I am proud of my country today.
It’s a new day in America, isn’t it? It’s thrilling to think that kids who are 8 or 10 years old today, this is a whole new place for them. When they become of age to vote, they’ll wonder why it was such a big deal. Like the way when I was growing up, I thought how impossible it seemed that there were once separate water fountains for whites and blacks. The fact that kids today will grow up in a world where a person of color holds the most powerful office in the world – and women are routinely running for such offices – is an amazing thing.
Equally inspiring is the fact that citizens of the United States have made our voices heard – not just to the electorate, but to the rest of the world. We are as tired of war, of unilateral bullying, of arrogance and of a country that’s run as if it’s an empire, as the rest of the world is. For the first time in a long time, I feel the potential of peace and solidarity with the rest of this small place we call earth.
For the first time in a long time, I’m not embarrassed to be American.