The nation was overwhelmed with emotion yesterday. Many Americans shed tears. Others may have felt rage and disgust. I saw it as a day of stark contrasts, particularly in language. The language of the last four years and the language of yesterday. The horror we felt on January 6, and the hope we felt on January 20.
I felt a notable contrast between Joe Biden and the poet Amanda Gorman. Their language was very similar, but I saw a sharp contrast in how Joe represents our political past and in how Amanda represents our political future.
Joe is the right person for this moment. I didn’t initially support Joe, but I came to believe he was the perfect person for the challenges we now face. I felt the nation needed experience and calm. A steady, guiding hand and someone that unquestionably puts country before self. In his dark suit and coat, he addressed our nation as a senior statesman with reassuring words of unity and resolve. Resolve to help us come together and to address a biological crisis that has ruined the lives of so many Americans.
He said everything that needed to be said.
And then we were blessed by the presence of Amanda Gorman. As I watched the television, I saw this lovely young lady dressed brightly in yellow, her amazing face illuminated by the noon sun. From her mouth came words acknowledging our pain and our challenges, but also reassuring words of strength and of hope. Her truthful, poetic words made clear the path our people must take. She was the brightest light on that stage and represents the best of our nation.
Both Joe and Amanda showed how much words matter.
In some ways, Joe represents our nation’s complicated past. Let’s face it. We’ve been a nation literally ruled by white, wealthy men. Not all were bad men. Some were decent men that tried to make our country more inclusive and fair. Some clearly were not and brought pain and suffering to many of our people. Joe represents the best of the past and is now the perfect man to one day hand the baton to the new generation of Americans. The future is Kamala and Amanda. A diverse, inclusive future where anyone can rise to the top.
As a student of history, I’ve learned that change typically comes slowly, but it does come. Often, it feels like just one person is building the Great Wall of China and has to run all the way back to the start for each and every brick. It takes forever, wears us down and sometimes seems impossible. Then again, change is not about building walls; it’s about taking them down.
Yesterday, one remaining wall fell. More are to come.