The inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president may, indeed, have been "historic". But it wasn't the part of the change in administrations which impressed me the most.
The most impressive part, to me, has happened many times in the last 233 years. It's the peaceful transition from one president to another. And it's happened often among men who at least had been political rivals.
Think about it. Obama had just spent two years (actually more) criticizing the Bush administration, as most of those who sought the office (not to mention much of the American population) had. Former President Bush backed his Republican election opponent, John McCain, for the office.
But when the election was over, Bush immediately invited the Obamas to the White House. The meeting of the incoming and outgoing presidents and first ladies took place within a week after the election. And when President-Elect Obama expressed to his soon-to-be-predecessor the wish for a meeting among all of the living former and current presidents, Bush arranged it.
That, in itself, is an impressive "meeting of the minds": Democrats Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush. I hope President Obama, in the next four years, often seeks out their advice and wisdom.
And, if you noticed, after an inaugural speech in which Obama had critical words for his predecessor, the two shared a final embrace.
Maybe all this impresses me because I've seen transitions in office which haven't been all that smooth or peaceful. Lyndon Johnson became president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Gerald Ford took office after the resignation of Richard Nixon (And to add to that, Ford was appointed Vice-President after Spiro Agnew resigned).
But when the normal transitions happen, they usually go beyond politics. And that separates our country from most of the rest of the world's nations.
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