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I had just come from the Caribbean Ball last night, a swank black-tie affair celebrating, of course, the inauguration of Barack Obama. It was one of a score of events — some in which the president of the United States and the first lady attended and danced amidst the cheering throngs. (Our intrepid senior photo editor, Lonnie Major, captured such joyful moments at the Illinois Ball).
President Obama added much substance to some of these galas, using them to honor the sacrifice of military families, signify the advancement of youth service, and salute the role of neighborhood solidarity and activism. Moreover, the events unveiled the rare sight of a powerful, yet caring black couple that will now serve as the ultimate role model for the world.
After a tiring but exhilarating day, I sat in my hotel room, reflecting on what this milestone means. The inauguration touched so many themes. For the Civil Rights generation, it was a culmination of the dream that their children could ascend to the highest level of society through discipline, hard work, and performance. It was made sweeter by the fact that it came one day after the federal holiday observing slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
To the youth of all hues, his inauguration represented the promise of a brighter future, confirmation that they can make a difference and fuel their personal aspirations.
For the nation, the swearing-in signaled a new chief executive who would work to take America from its economic doldrums and rebuild its confidence in bringing an end to an administration that left a country economically and spiritually hollow. George Bush’s send-off: catcalls and deafening applause as his helicopter from the U.S. Capitol disappeared in the sky. They were relieved that Crawford, Texas’ First Citizen was returning home for good.
To street-corner entrepreneurs and retailers, he offered a boost to the economy through the sales of pre-inauguration Obama merchandise, estimated in some quarters at $2 billion. Leaving the Capitol grounds, we passed a number of entrepreneurs who lamented the fact that they had to drop the price of Obama merchandise, in some cases, as much as 75%.
To me, it represents my generation coming into leadership. I am the same age as President Obama, like many of my contemporaries. The so-called post-Boomers and genders must step up and drive the agenda in business, government, media, public service — the list goes on. We must use our energy, intellect, experience, and resources to help cure societal ills and build commercial enterprise. Over the past few days, I have heard an oft-repeated phrase originated by our publisher, Earl G. Graves Sr.: “No more excuses.” We must heed those three words as our new mantra.
Yes, we now live in the Obama Era.