Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

The first presidential inauguration that I can remember was Richard Nixon's first, in 1969. Several grades were crowded into one classroom at the decrepit old Columbus School in Throop, a building so bad, the second floor was condemned and no one was allowed up there. That's another story for another time. The principal tuned in the inauguration on a medium sized black and white TV. For some strange reason, I can recall that we watched the public station that day. The moment was lost on me. Cut me some slack. I was in second grade.

Let's fast forward to today. I can't remember an inauguration that's generated so much enthusiasm.

We've come close. Jimmy Carter's inauguration in 1977 made a lot of people happy. It signaled the end of the Watergate nightmare. Carter seemed like a regular guy, and we as Americans seemed to like that, for the moment. Unfortunately, nothing went right for Carter, including a steep rise in the price of gasoline (sound familiar?) and the Iranian hostage crisis. Carter was cooked after that "national malaise" speech. We don't like to be blamed for our own problems.

We decided we wanted something completely different four years later. Ronald Reagan got the country feeling good about itself again. Remember "a city on a hill" and "morning in America?" Reagan restored a lot of ceremony to the presidency. After four years of Carter, we seemed to want that. Carter was too informal for many. You can't forget that the first day of the Reagan administration was the last day of the Iranian hostage crisis.

Bill Clinton seemed to energize a lot of people. He had that "regular guy" thing going for him, but not to the extent of Mr. Carter. I could be wrong, but I don't think the fervor that surrounded the early Clinton days matched what we saw and felt in 1977 or 1981.

Barack Obama-- young, energetic, a great speaker, charismatic, telegenic, and he's percieved as an agent of change. Add it all up, and you get someone who's captured America's interest. That's putting it mildly.

Time will tell if his policies are good ones.

It reminds me of the day David Hartman handed off to Charlie Gibson as host of "Good Morning America." Hartman looked at Gibson on that morning in 1987 and said "It's on your plate."