Many Americans love to watch the ceremonies that attend to the doings of British royalty as well as the United Kingdom’s elaborate method for opening the sessions of its parliament. For the most part, our more simple republican (with a small r) traditions are less photogenic as well as less tourist friendly. There is something slightly unseemly, albeit understandable, about this American love of the trappings of monarchy.
Yet Inauguration Day is the exception to this rule. The swearing-in of our president and vice president, accompanied by the ceremonial playing of “Hail to the Chief” and the firing of salutes, gives us a little taste of tradition even if it falls short of the “Masterpiece Theatre” level that they maintain on the other side of the Atlantic. But the true resonance of the day’s proceedings lies in its symbolic reaffirmation of the core values of our democracy and the peaceful way in which we transfer and maintain power in our republic. Inauguration Day is a sacred day in our secular calendar, not just because of who is honored but because it recalls the day in 1801 when, for the first time, one party peacefully handed over the presidency to its rival.
Many of us may have hard feelings about President Obama’s policies and are licking our wounds after his re-election. But on Inauguration Day, we put those feelings aside for a few minutes and thank the Almighty for the preservation of our republic and its Constitution. We can and should cheer Barack Hussein Obama’s taking of the oath and swear allegiance along with him to the document to which he has pledged his fealty.
After doing so, we will begin again the task of speaking up for the principles which we believe will best secure our nation’s future and preserve its liberties. But as we do so let us understand that the institutions that today honor President Obama should never be diminished in the name of partisan argument. In doing so, we can enjoy the ceremony and remember that what unites us as Americans should always be greater than what divides us.