Hopes, Dreams and Disappointments

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Ike Leggett, Terrance Moran, John Lockwood, Zuberi Williams, Dorothy Rossi
Sunday, January 18, 2009

What a glorious week this is. Tomorrow, we honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. On Tuesday, we celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

This is indeed a time to celebrate and a time to reflect on just how far we have come as a nation. Dr. King loved America and called on it to live up to the high ideals on which this country was founded. The election of Barack Obama says much about him as a man for the moment we live in. But perhaps it says more about the country we have become. Only in America could this happen.

On the night of his election, Barack Obama issued a remarkably clear and compelling call to service and sacrifice in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. I believe it is a time to remember -- and a time to celebrate. But, more important, it is a time to act to help others.

Many of our neighbors in Montgomery County are hurting, and we can do something now to assist them. All the indicators of real need -- from foreclosures to food stamps -- are skyrocketing and threatening the quality of life for many in our county, as in our nation as a whole. The Manna Food Center reports that requests for food in November 2008 were 56 percent higher than in November 2007.

Many of our neighbors are experiencing tough times. Each one of us has the ability to lend a helping hand. By working together, we can show the power of a caring community.

This is our chance to keep the dream alive and answer President-elect Obama's call for a new spirit of service and sacrifice right here at home. We can celebrate and make a difference.

-- Ike Leggett

Rockville

The writer is county executive of Montgomery County.

·

Another day, another story of planned grand inauguration events with no public tickets.

Have children and want to attend the children's concert? Don't worry about getting a babysitter. There are no public tickets available anyway.

Like jazz and want to join in the "Celebration of America"? No tickets for the public. Want to go down and watch the parade and take a picture of the newly inaugurated president? No cameras allowed. The theme for this event is billed as "We Are One." Maybe it should be "We Are One and You're Not."

My hope is that all the veterans and military personnel and their families are given close access and that their every whim is catered to.

Then I will believe that something different is afoot and that this is not business as usual.

-- Terrance Moran

Fairfax Station

·

Barack Obama will take the oath of office on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. Yet, well within the memory of older Americans, Inauguration Day was March 4 and always had been.

The Framers chose March 4 more from necessity than for any other reason. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people got about much as they had for thousands of years -- by horseback or by sailing ship. It could take weeks for members of Congress to visit their constituents or return to Washington, or even for a president to contact somebody he wanted to be in his Cabinet.

This began to change by the 1830s.

Railroads were invented, and now people could travel hundreds of miles within hours. Samuel Morse's telegraph system began in 1844, giving humanity its first instant communications.

The March 4 date proved not merely time-wasting but positively damaging after Abraham Lincoln's victory in the 1860 presidential election. After the election, the southern slave states began seceding from the Union, one by one, as the nation drew ever nearer to civil war. Yet the lame-duck president, James Buchanan, one of the weakest chief executives ever to hold the office, did little beyond making speeches.

Lincoln had to wait four agonizing months until his inauguration. He even remarked to a friend that he would willingly give up those months out of his life if only he could start his presidency at once.

Another near-disastrous delay took place after the 1932 election. The nation was sliding ever further into the Great Depression, but Franklin Roosevelt also had to wait four months before he could do anything about it.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution changed all this, moving the date back to Jan. 20. It was ratified on Jan. 23, 1933, and took effect Oct. 15, 1933. Roosevelt won the 1936 election, becoming the first president to be inaugurated on the new date of Jan. 20.

-- John Lockwood

Washington

·

I'm a native of the Washington area and, with the exception of four years in college, I've lived here my entire life. Over the past two months, the tempo and the rhythm of the city have picked up like a Duke Ellington melody, all in anticipation of Barack Obama's inauguration.

The jazz permeates daily life. You can hear it by eavesdropping on the Metro. You can see it at happy hour on U Street. I bet that during the holidays, every family gathering -- from Olney and Silver Spring to Fairfax and Alexandria -- had some mention of Inauguration Day. Who's staying where? How are we going to get around? Who's trying to get out of town to avoid the whole thing?

Those of us who call Washington home know the inconveniences that go hand in hand with hordes descending on our city -- for July 4, for protests, for events such as the Million Man March. The Beltway becomes a parking lot, the whole city looks like Adams Morgan on a Friday night, and, my pet peeve, hundreds of people stand on the left side of Metro escalators. But preparation for this inauguration has sacked our city to a degree that no other organized event in recent history has done. With predictions of millions of attendees, Jan. 20 will be the biggest pop-culture event so far in the 21st century.

To my fellow natives, I say get your hopes up that it will all be worth it. We will truly be the center of the world on Tuesday. We are the main runway showing off America's new look. (This year, black is in.) And this is our opportunity to make a lasting impression on our guests and on the world. We may be able to inspire a generation. If not, we can say that, at least for a time, we were a little hipper . . . cooler . . . jazzier.

-- Zuberi Williams

Silver Spring

The writer is editor-in-chief of Poptimal.com.

·

As I read the many articles on street closings, inaugural festivities, and who is wearing what and when for inaugural activities, I am starting to feel a major disconnect between the lives of ordinary Americans and the pomp and circumstance of Barack Obama's inauguration. We have men and women at war, a failing economy, and a society stressed to the max on foreclosures, global warming, debt, crumbling infrastructure and lack of access to health care. Not to mention the threat of international terrorism and a loss of faith in America abroad. I voted for Obama and want to maintain the hope he promised.

Yes, we can do things differently in a way that will hold out his promises to our citizenry. I am just sorry that we didn't start with a scaled-down and much simplified inauguration, one that would reflect our times.

-- Dorothy Rossi

Springfield


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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