Inspirational Moments Define the Challenges that Lie Ahead

Text By Elliott Potter; Images: CNN.com

The Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States just concluded a few moments ago, and now I join other Americans in reflection on what we have just witnessed.

After the benediction was given and the colors were returned, the enormity of the moment swept over me. This inauguration was so much more than administering the oaths of office to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, though that is the constitutional requirement that brought our nation together.

It was the speeches, the music, the prayers and the inspiring, poetic words of a young lady named Amanda Gorman. It was the reassuring presence of men and women of the armed services who stood at the ready, and it was admirable continuation of tradition by Mike Pence.

It was the historic significance of the installation of a new Vice President–the first woman to hold that office and the product of a multicultural background that has become a hallmark of America. And it was the reassurances that emanated from the new President, elderly but wise and thoughtful. Joe Biden stood up and proclaimed himself ready to lead an entire nation, not merely a political movement.

There will be many special moments and numerous memorable passages extracted from this solemn occasion, but for now it is the entirety of it all that overwhelms me.

In his Inaugural Address, President Biden focused on unity, bringing this country together after some of the most divisive months since the Civil War. Beyond a terrible pandemic that one day will pass or recent events that democracy survived, restoring some semblance of unity among the American people is the most important challenge before us.

The President noted that perfection may be an unattainable goal, but “a more perfect union” has been and should remain the real objective of our nation’s mission statement. We have always had political differences, but that has never stopped the United States of America from being the “shining city on the hill” that Ronald Reagan proclaimed us to be. We must stay the course; our future depends on it.

I also was reminded of the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy we celebrated as this historic week began. In the hours before his assassination in Memphis, Dr. King spoke of scaling a mountain and looking out over the horizon. What he saw–a more perfect union, if you will–was a gift from God as his time on Earth was coming to an end. “I have seen the Promised Land,” he said with a conviction that proved both uncommon and prophetic.

I thought of those words as President Biden reminded us of what we as nation have been and what we could be again. His words pointed America in the right direction.

But I wondered: Do we have the same clear vision as Dr. King? Is a dense fog of lies and misinformation keeping Americans from seeing and then continuing the journey to a Promised Land?

Biden touched on this issue, as he called on Americans to reject a “culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” Without a baseline of truth and without the repudiation of lies and liars, even capable leaders such as President Biden and Vice President Harris–people with a strong will and determination to restore unity–will face a terribly difficult time.

In the optimism inspired by the Biden inauguration, we should not underestimate the challenges of the task ahead. Millions of Americans refused to even watch the inauguration. They continued to search instead for information that reinforces their prejudices, not enlightens their minds. Some people have lived in the dark for so long, the light hurts their eyes–and exposes their wounded pride, for they have been conned.

These times call for facts, not propaganda. Truth fertilizes the common ground on which democracy flourishes. Without it, the fog will never lift, and our great nation cannot reach the Promised Land. On this Inauguration Day 2021, it has been reassuring to witness our nation’s new leaders hold up the guiding torch of America’s promise and summon us back to the right path. It is now up to each of us to find the way home.

Elliott Potter is a staff columnist and blogger for HERStory. He is a former newspaper editor and publisher who lives in Jacksonville, N.C.

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