Warning: This is a quasi-political post, in contrast with my policy of avoiding such posts.
I was 14 years old when John Kennedy was inaugurated. I watched his speech on TV and was captivated by his youth, his intellect, and his vigor. During the Eisenhower years, we lived a typical lower middle class life - mom stayed home and fumed, dad worked at a series of jobs. My mom and dad were liberals who believed that we (the US) should be doing more to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We barely had enough to feed our family, but my mother managed to scrape up extra food for any stranger who happened by. Life was OK. But when Kennedy came along, there was something tangibly different, an excitement, an electricity in the air. A younger generation was taking over. Kennedy's notion of "service" motivated me to be involved in many activities I might not have chosen had Nixon been elected then. I was a junior in highschool when Kennedy was assassinated. I watched MLK Jr give his "I Have A Dream Speech". I was in awe. I lived in Los Angeles attending UCLA when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. We watched the event practically live from the Ambassador Hotel. My family stayed in the Ambassador Hotel when I was a child during the Kennedy administration. We were in the hotel at the same time a Russian ambassador was touring the US at the height of the cold war. We got to see just how tough the KGB guards were as they cleared a path for this ambassador (whose name escapes my swiss cheese memory).
Today, MLK Jr day 2009, brings back a flood of memories as we are poised to sweep out the worst political nightmare in my 60+ years of memory. By my clock, we have less than 24 hours left before a new president will be inaugurated. At noon tomorrow (eastern standard time), Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States. I will again watch his inauguration with the same anticipation I recall in watching Kennedy's speech 48 years ago. I don't think of Obama as "another Kennedy" or another MLK Jr. I simply feel the same excitement about his inauguration as I did as a 14 year old in 1961. I've been so turned off by politics over the past 30 years that it took me a long time to even get interested in the Presidential campaign just over. I didn't support Obama until he became the official nominee. Then I started listening to what he said. I watched carefully after he was elected. I've been following each development, each appointment with incredible interest. (I've also watched the unfolding of the financial catastrophe with near equal interest.) And as I sit poised to watch Obama's inauguration, I am imbued with hope for the future. This isn't a glib hope, but a long-term hope that things will eventually get better. I don't have any advice for our new President. I merely offer him and his administration my heartfelt best wishes for success in turning our national nightmare into an opportunity for new beginnings. I hope I can say the same thing after 4 years of Obama. Best of luck Mr. President (elect).