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Inaugurating Love | Memory of the Future Project
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Inaugurating Love

By Sara Lovell | January 26, 2009

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heart quiltin·au·gu·rate

1: to induct into an office with suitable ceremonies

2 a: to dedicate ceremoniously : observe formally the beginning of <inaugurate a new school> b: to bring about the beginning of


I’d like to recap some of the events of this past exhilarating week. Starting with the We Are One concert at the Lincoln Memorial, on Sunday, January 18, that demonstrated the power of words and music and common purpose.

“It was a day that combined inspiring political rhetoric with the very best of pop culture.”

–L.A. Times

The free concert opened with a military orchestra, the trumpeters’ long horns decorated with flags playing Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” That was the first time I burst into tears, with many more tears to follow. Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney and Queen Latifah, along with many other performers, read inspiring words from past leaders and American authors. And then there was the music – songs by Bruce Springsteen, U2, John Mellencamp. Classics like “A Change is Gonna Come” performed by Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi, “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder, “Lean On Me” performed by Mary J. Blige, and Bob Marley’s “One Love“, performed by Herbie Hancock, Usher and Sheryl Crow. Beyonce sang “America the Beautiful” (my choice for national anthem) beautifully. Here’s a link that describes more. Although there was an error and the opening prayer by Bishop Gene Robinson, (the world’s first openly gay bishop), wasn’t seen in the original broadcast, HBO said his prayer was included in their re-broadcasts.

There was such a deep sense of reverence, of being part of something sacred and beautiful, that virtually everyone who spoke and performed was tuned into and came from that place, along with the half a million people standing in the winter chill, all feeling it too. The concert was powerfully named and the naming became the experience. The experience of all of us feeling so deeply connected to each other, to Obama, to the threads of the truest parts of our history, and to the pull of the best of what we can become.

Inauguration day.

John Williams’ “Air and Simple Gifts” played by Itzak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriella Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill mirrored the depth, richness and possibility that are present at this unique moment in time. The great sense of pride, relief and joy when Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, his hand resting on the Lincoln bible. Hearing his speech that spoke perfectly to the personal and collective responsibility we all share at this time. Watching the helicopter carrying George W. Bush lift off and fly away from Washington. It was the largest gathering in U.S. history for an inauguration, with two and a half million people in D.C. for the celebrations, and there were no arrests.

I went to a celebration that evening, and everyone was just beside themselves, finding it hard to believe and harder to stop smiling. In fact everyone has been so happy. Even in the face of what we’re dealing with in our country and the world, half a million people were smiling at the concert, two million people of all colors and creeds and ages were smiling on the mall watching the ceremonies, the billion people around the world watching these celebrations on television, everyone I came in contact with in the last few days - smiling. We watched Barack and Michelle dance at the several balls they attended. Not only have we heard words from Barack that are words we’ve been waiting to hear, but he has embodied qualities that we’ve been waiting to see embodied: calm and ease, self respect, respect for differences, clarity of vision and sureness of action. His character calls upon us to strengthen our character. And to see the two of them moving across the floor, both exhibiting grace and commitment, it was a sight to behold.

There’s something very deep and rooted that Obama has reached down into and is holding up for all of us to witness and join. It’s as if he wasn’t afraid to go right into the pure place of deepest dedication and bring it out of hiding, knowing that the commitment alone to restore our democracy and our dignity will protect it, and once we have reawakened, together we will have a force that will be unstoppable for the good it can bring.

The feeling I had during the concert and the inaugural ceremonies, and for the days following can only be described as love. The deepest kind of love, the kind that reaches in and makes your heart ache and swell at the same time, that goes down into the earth, renewing our belonging to it, and wraps us in our belonging to each other. A feeling of deep care, the kind you would feel for a child - that surge of devotion and protection, and the joy from feeling so moved that it makes you want to be a better person. That’s what has been activated, a deeper caring, a bigger love. It’s a dream we once had and set aside for lack of faith in an earlier time, and now this dream has come alive again. Millions of young people are feeling it and they don’t have the boomers’ history of hoping and then losing hope – so maybe they see no reason why the words Obama speaks, along with words of Lincoln, King or Gandhi can’t be lived into, right here and right now. And I think it’s our duty and privilege to let their hopes and visions guide us and to leave our old fears and distrust behind. I say to myself and to you - if you’re feeling something real, some reinvigorated deep caring and connection, some new igniting of purpose – go with it. Sink into it deeper, cultivate it, spread it out, pass it on. These feelings are what inspire us to act, to bring forth our desires, to unite us in the telling of this new story of our shared destiny. Feel the love. This is what we’re inaugurating.


“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.”

- Maya Angelou

obama-sf-chronicle-pic

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