A CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM
The celebration of Black History Month is a celebration of American History. This great nation was founded on the fundamental principles and values that we as Americans still hold true today. I recently had the privilege of attending the Presidential Inauguration to witness President Obama be sworn into office for his second Presidential term. In that moment, I realized I was a witness to history in the making. America had elected its first African American President to serve a second term in the White House. This nation has come a long way since its years of shameful oppression and segregation. As I listened to President Obama’s Inaugural speech, I realized that he wanted to remind us all of the triumphs this young nation has made and the obstacles it overcame in reaching its “pursuit of happiness”.
This year, the Presidential Inauguration took place on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, adding even more historical sentiment to the event. Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. Dr. King had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States. Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation. President Obama took his inaugural oath with his hand atop a pair of Bibles, one once belonging to Dr. King as well as one belonging to President Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s 16th president, who fought to preserve the Union during the U.S. Civil War and brought about the emancipation of slaves. Both Dr. King and President Lincoln have left a lasting legacy deeply woven into the fabric of America’s history. They fought for the unification of a nation that would someday grow united in its pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. President Obama incorporated into his inaugural speech some of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as well as phrases from speeches given by Dr. King and President Lincoln. Obama stated that “Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no nation founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.” His statement rings close to the sentiments expressed in Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech given in June 1858 when he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination to Senate for the state of Illinois. Lincoln’s goal with his speech was to create an image of freedom that was prophetic for the future of this nation.
President Obama went on to express that “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths-that all of us are created equal-is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” Like Dr. King and President Lincoln, President Obama continues to instill this nation’s core values of civil liberties and equality for all Americans. As we celebrate together this month, let us remember and pay tribute to the risk takers, innovators, laborers and leaders who have guided us on our journey towards prosperity and freedom. Let us continue to foster the growth of a nation unified by our individualities and amplified by our founding principles of freedom.