Today’s inauguration of President Barack Obama will go down in history because he is the first African-American to be sworn in as U.S. president. But beyond that, this day will be remembered as an extraordinary coming together. Extended families were reunited and strangers embraced like long-lost friends, and for a morning we were as one.
I understood the pull of this moment for every person who had marched on Washington, and marched again, because I am one of them. All those times we were marching to make demands of a government that would not hear us, but this time my daughter and I marched to the foot of the U.S. Capitol to join a buoyant throng and witness a triumphant changing of the guard.
President Obama took his oath on this sub-freezing January day as millions of people held their breath and then gave a collective sigh of relief for ourselves and for the country. It was thrilling to be present for part of history, but the hard work is still ahead.
As the festivities die down, President Obama and Vice President Biden will come to grips with a nation burdened by two wars, an economy in tumult, eight years of regressive policies to undo, and untold damage left in the wake of those policies.
We expect some of those policies will be reversed by executive order, and as we celebrate on Thursday the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we hope for quick action by President Obama in restoring those rights that are within his control – from revoking the Global Gag Rule to restoring the budgeted U.S. funds that George W. Bush has withheld from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
A year ago, many believed that today would bring us the nation’s first woman president; instead we join together with our sisters and brothers today in celebrating a different landmark first for our country. In making our endorsement last fall, the National Organization for Women put: “our hopes and our dreams, our hard work and our hard-earned money, behind the next President of the United States — Barack Obama — and his running mate, longtime friend and ally of women, Joe Biden.”
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have made a strong commitment to hearing our voices and moving forward on women’s concerns, and the women of the country stand ready to help. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony said it best: “Failure is impossible.”