ROBINSON: The amazing grace of the second time around
Published: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
President Barack Hussein Obama’s second inauguration was every bit as historic as his first
Reflect for a moment: A black man stood on the Capitol steps and took the oath of office as president of the United States.
Leading up to Monday’s pageant of democracy — perhaps the one occasion when the phrase
Would there be more gridlock and paralysis? Would Obama adopt a more conciliatory tone toward the Republican leadership in the House, or would he press the advantage he won at the polls in November? Would he make good on his promise of an all-out effort to pass new gun control laws, even at the risk of making some fellow Democrats politically vulnerable? How would he approach immigration, entitlements, economic growth, the long-term debt?
Reaction to the address took remarkably little notice of the fact that Obama is an African-American. That seems to be old news.
Not for me, though. Not for a black man who grew up in the segregated South, who attended a rally (my mother tells me) at which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, who lived through the defeat of Jim Crow and the triumph of the civil rights movement.
For my two sons, this is history
On Monday morning, before the inauguration, Obama took his family to worship at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House. Television images of the president, his wife Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, entering and then leaving the church, were charming but unexceptional
I have always believed that those quotidian pictures of family life are one of the most important legacies of the Obama presidency. For most people, visual information is uniquely powerful. What we see has more impact than what we hear. Pictures of an African-American family enveloped by Secret Service protection, ferried down Pennsylvania Avenue in armored limousines, returning at night to sleep in the grand residence of the nation’s head of state
I was always taught that the first black person to fill any job or role previously reserved for whites should expect to be held to a higher standard. Surely Obama has noticed this, too.
You’d think that steering the economy away from the abyss, passing landmark health care reform, guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work, ending our nation’s shameful experiment with torture and ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — for starters — would add up to a pretty impressive first-term resume.
Voters clearly thought so, but a lot of my fellow pundits seem not to have noticed. Instead, they demand to know why Obama has not somehow charmed Republicans — who announced, you will recall, that their principal aim was making him a one-term president — into meek submission, I suppose through some combination of glad-handing and perhaps hypnosis.
The truth is that it will take many years to fully assess the Obama presidency. The verdict will depend on what he accomplishes in his second term
But here we are, talking about legacy, not race. Which is simply amazing.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.