By the time most of you read this, Barack Obama will have taken the oath of office and we will have a new president.
Today, on a bitter cold day, the thawing of race relations takes a giant leap forward. America enters a new era, on many fronts: racial, political, economic, religious and social.
It is in many ways the turning of a page of history, the transition from one generation to another. Today the direction of our country takes a hard left, to the ideological, religious, and empirical center.
If presidents embody the country’s collective consciousness we can see the arc of history more clearly. Starting with the end of World War II, as Eisenhower was the torch bearer for the “greatest generation,” passing it to the young John F. Kennedy who surely was the icon of his generation, we see how presidents come to symbolize the country during their periods of power.
In recent history, we had the promise of the boomers embodied in William Jefferson Clinton. He was young, intelligent and grew up in a time when his generation believed it could change the world. And in many important respects it did precisely that. He was the symbol of hard work, dedication to a purpose and achievement.
From that same generation, we had George Walker Bush. He too was a symbol, but of the dangers of an immoderately dogmatic view of the world. He was not a positive, uplifting force. As a representative of the people, he was the anti-intelligence, closed minded, faith based, doctrinaire fringe that came from privilege and excess.
These two presidents, Clinton and Bush 43, exemplify the range the boomer generation encompassed. One was extroverted and open, the other was introverted and insular. They are the Boomer Generation. They were the hyphenated generation. The “African-American” and the “Irish-American” who bridged the gap from people identified as objects, to people as people.
President Barack Obama is the next generation. He is my generation.
We have almost nothing in common externally, and yet we have everything in common that matters. We each see the possibility that America gives to its people. We each see that hard work will lead to success, but that some people do need a hand up. We recognize that there are differences between people, and that the difference is what makes us strong as a people, not weaker as an individual.
He is the bridge of history. From the days of our fathers and grandfathers, to the future of our dreams. To a time when the rational rules, and the partisan is sidelined.
As my generation assumes the mantle of power, albeit with the helping hand of the Boomer Generation, we return to the hope and promise of the best of the Boomers. We face a daunting list of problems, but it is only with the hottest fire of these problems, that the strong iron of our will can be hammered, to create an enduring new world order.
Today is not a day for African-Americans to rejoice. The term African-American has served its purpose. Its role of making people aware of race and citizenship, is no longer necessary. And with that, none of the other hyphenates are really useful or needed. We can now move beyond hyphenation.
In one short moment, President Obama moved our country from one of factions, groups, demographs and denominations, closer to the ideal of one people.
I am no longer a gay-white-Italian-German-Irish-Catholic-Protestant-male-American.
Today I am American.
Today my president took office.
These are heady days. It is a turning point in history.
I am reminded of the story about returning Roman gladiators who would always have someone on the chariot standing behind them, to whisper in their ears, “All glory is fleeting.” It was a reminder to stay humble.
As much as we are reveling in the intoxicating air of change, we need to remember that President Obama will stumble at some point. The forces of partisanship will rise up against him. There will be a scandal, real or manufactured.
But today, he is my generation coming to power.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 664-9969.