Inaugural Optimism

I am breaking a few self-enforced "work rules" this morning, and I feel no shame or guilt about it. I have the television in my office turned on to watch the inaugural proceedings, sound turned down, but a distraction anyway. I should be preparing for an upcoming conference call, but I'm blogging because I'm captivated by what's happening in Washington. Thoughts in no particular order:

Listening to the screams - not just cheers, but screams - of the crowd as the motorcade progresses, it's audibly clear that Obama is bigger than the Beatles.

NBC commentators mis-identify Michelle Obama's brother Craig in the crowd. The black and orange scarf gets a locomotive cheer.

Long-lived institutions - governments, universities, religions - change in time scales relative to their own existence. They remain immune to change as long as their constituents refuse to repair pre-conceived notions of leadership or longevity; you have to embrace the diversity of a larger whole to benefit from it. As I frequently tell prospective students during interviews, Princeton didn't admit women as undergraduates until 1969, and it was nearly another 30 years until incoming classes reflected the gender demographics of the larger body of global university students. But Princeton is a decidedly better place having made the change. What tenets of "Washington as usual" will the Obama administration challenge?

I'm eagerly anticipating an administration that embraces science, that encourages innovation, that names a national CTO, that used modern grass roots support mechanisms to truly grasp the spirit of the American people. Despite parallels drawn to JFK (age and appeal) and Lincoln, the better Presidential model is Andrew Jackson. His inaugural party was the subject of high school history classes; an open party in the White House then is a multi-million strong crowd on the Mall today. Obama is truly a President reflective of the larger whole of the American people. To be fair, he's not going to single-handedly going to fix the financial environment, the global ecological environment, or the economic situation. But if we're encouraged, empowered, and enabled to create change, the fixes can emerge. Obama's inauguration is an historic day, and I'm hoping it's only a leading indicator of the history to be written.

Comments:

Well said Hal. I was there with my wife. We left our house in Ashburn at 4:10am to make sure we were there in plenty of time. There was a line of 20 cars at the Dunn Loring Metro at 4:45am to get in. It was absolutely amazing to be there in person. Seventeen degrees, 1.8 million people and zero arrests. That has never happened before on The Mall. The excitement that day was more palpable than any championship sporting event that I have attended.

Like you, I think Obama is the right person at the right time. The United States of America needs to get back to the sciences and true innovation.

Posted by David Edstrom on January 25, 2009 at 11:39 AM EST #

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