The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Some reflection on Inauguration Day

Now that Nevadans are returning from four days of Inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C., I have put together some Inauguration thoughts...

First let's correct the record all over the blogosphere. President Obama didn't mess up the oath. It was Chief Justice Roberts' mistake by first pausing then misquoting the oath, causing Obama confusion. Just in case, they did a do-over in the Oval Office. I'm sure folks will spin and debate this faux pas for years to come, depending on their particular polarization.

There also seems to be a great deal of spin on the cost of Obama's inaugural festivities by comparing the expense to President George W. Bush's second inaugural. Yes, my friends his second, not his first.

Keep in mind this is a very extraordinary inauguration and, more importantly, a historic event with the election of the first African American president. Therefore, I think the pundits should compare apples to apples, not otherwise.

I recall as a young boy in 1974, my dad had been re-elected to his second term as Nevada's 23rd Governor, and he decided, in light of the economic crisis at that time, that it wouldn't be prudent to have another Inaugural Ball. His comment at the time was a breezy, "We already had one." This inauguration, on the other hand, was Obama's first, and he deserved a ball.

The most captivating moment for me was the invocation by Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and the author of one of my favorites books "The Purpose Driven Life."

One of the most striking lines in his prayer was, "We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership."

Warren followed those lines with this reference to the Bible that still echoes in my head: "And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven," to which in my mind the voice of Dr. King answered, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

At that point, I was at the proverbial mountaintop. But I did not stay there long. Soon I began asking myself, are we really free? Sure we're free in this country to move about as we please, yet I can't help think about how so many people and families are chained to this economic crisis in one form or another.

Are we really free when religious zealots want to impose their beliefs on us, against our will in some cases and with the threat of harm or death? These zealots come from every imaginable faith, not just one or two. There are extremes in every faith.

A disappointment came in the benediction by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a personal hero of mine from the civil rights movement. Although, he may have intended to poke fun at racial stereotypes, he offended many with this line from his closing prayer: "And in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead man, and when white will embrace what is right."

This was really an unfortunate statement implying that whites haven't embraced other races and cultures. His statement reminded me of the old saying, "the pot calling the kettle black." As offensive as that might sound, Lowery clearly displayed the chip on his shoulder by implying things haven't changed or perhaps not enough. I would disagree with that line of thinking, because things have changed a lot — not perfectly, but you must admit things are getting better in this not-so-perfect multicultural country.

Rev. Lowery may have slightly bruised this historic day, which is the fruit from trees grown from the seeds planted not only by Dr. King and Rosa Parks, but also the very seeds Lowery planted himself in Mobile, Montgomery and Atlanta.

Now let's give our new president a chance to work on this country's difficult challenges.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular for the Henderson Home News.