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A Front Row Seat to History

A Front Row Seat to History

I voted for McCain and still wept for joy at the inauguration.


What does it mean to have a front row seat? Is it an expression only meant literally or is there a metaphorical component? I didn't go to Washington. I didn't want to brave the crowds, the weather or the severe lack of port-a-potties (one for every 600 people!). Not to mention the fact that I didn't get an invitation – maybe because I voted for McCain.

But I still felt like I had a front row seat. Even though it was in front of my computer. A front row seat not just to history in the making (it's embarrassingly true; my husband and I could not stop crying), but a front row seat to something even more important: to the resurgence of hope.

Whatever our personal politics, this is a message we would all do well to heed. It was a tremendously moving inauguration. It had all the spectacle and pageantry of a great nation. And it signaled the inspiration of America's willingness to move -- in a relatively short span of time -- from a country with pervasive racism to electing a black president.

When the Almighty tells Abraham to leave everything familiar behind and set out on a journey into the unknown, He offers him reassurance. You will become a great nation, your name will be great, and "those who bless you will be blessed." Dennis Prager once suggested that the good in America is a direct result of this promise. He may be right. What I do know for sure is that there is good in this country.

There is a striving for meaning, for purpose. There is a striving for unity and caring. There is a striving for morality and a relationship with God. And it's moving and inspiring.

In challenging times -- whether for individuals or nations -- we tend to lose hope. We give in to dangerous cynicism or paralyzing despair. The election of the first black president of the United States has signaled a willingness and desire to lift ourselves out of our stale and unproductive state.

He tried to inspire us to hard work and purposeful effort. He tried to communicate that anything is possible -- with will and determination -- and the blessing of the Almighty.

It wasn't based on naive optimism, but on a realistic assessment of what this country is and what it could be.

And it was empowering. Sometimes individuals feel lost in the face of world forces. What can I do? How can I make a difference?

The inauguration reminded us that we all count, that everyone's actions matter. The Talmud teaches that everyone should say, "The world was created just for me." I am the one who is responsible.

And with responsibility comes hope -- and action.

I heard a story last night of a man who went to a prominent rabbi and bemoaned the fact that he had just lost 80 million dollars. "You had 80 million dollars," said the rabbi, "and there are Jews without food on their table or roofs over their heads."

We all have 80 million dollars -- in skills, abilities, passions, energy and ideals.

We have been complacent too long. We can all take our responsibilities more seriously and accomplish much more -- for America, for Israel, and for humanity.

It's good to care. It's good to be inspired. It's sometimes even good to cry. But the best of all is to act.

I don't know what kind of president Barack Obama will turn out to be. But I know that I am inspired to put my best self forward. And for that clarion call alone, for that refocus and re-motivation, I am grateful for his inauguration.

January 20, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 46

(45) Mary, March 27, 2011 7:46 PM

still wept for Joy

Note the comments were dated Jan, 2009-Guess I too, wept for something.But it sure was not the change that has occurred in this country - Sorry to disappoint 2009 comment writers -Most cant' wait for 2012 --to "alt, control, delete" and start all over.

miriam harris, October 21, 2011 4:53 AM

Don't agree

I don't think so. It's pretty clear that hisopposition have practically canceled their citizenship, as in good citizenship, in our country for their cause of defeating him. I guess we didn't come as far along racially as we thought we did. And to think that their leader is a Jewish boy-Eric Kanter!! What a shanda!!!

(44) Jessica, February 1, 2009 6:41 PM

#25 Don-I don't think I'm Hashem!

This is just proof of what is happening now in the war, that negotiating with a people who are out to kill and destroy Israel, does NOT work. History repeats itself. Look back on it. Look in the Torah, I know you are not to hate. Hamas Hates Israel do you get it? Look in the Torah, G-d even has Israel kill their enemies, every man woman and child. This is spiritual, it's not going to be negotiated away. Hate of the jews is in their Koran, in their faith. read the war stories from Gaza and you will see what they are up to. I'm not for another ceasefire as Mitchell is proposing once again so that Israel can continue to have rockets rain down on sderot, ashkelon, etc. This is a battle against terrorism. It affects other countries besides Israel too. In America, we did not put up with it on 9/11. Why should Israel have to? It has nothing to do with hating an enemy, and being a sinner, it has to do with defending yourself against an enemy. This time, love won't work.

(43) Anonymous, January 29, 2009 10:26 PM

I think, after reading several comments, that the comments have strayed so far from the article! Many of the comments are very critical. Why be so critical of a man who has been president for all of 9 days! Doesn't everyone deserve a fair chance? there are so many layers of judging going on in the comments. I think that next time you hear about a controversial thing that Obama has done, stop and try to understand the other side instead of automatically assuming a conclusion (whether you agree with him or not.)This will only broaden your knowledge and strengthen your argument. I also believe that many of the things people say are based solely on rumors that are not true. If you do the above exercise you will learn to differentiate facts from opinion or lies. I see many people have written hateful things about Obama and I'm not sure why. There is no evidence for anything that says he's an anti-semite or the like (no, he is no way a Muslim!. Whether you agree with his politics or not is a seperate issue, but there is no reason to worry about the Obama administration because ultimately everything is in Hashem's hands.

(42) Caroline, January 29, 2009 9:01 PM


Kudos to you Manuel. I couldn't have said it better myself!!

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