Sloan Column: A much-needed call for unity
Like many Americans, I tuned in on Jan. 20 and watched as Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Also like many Americans, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think its fair to say things have been more than a little unpredictable in the world of politics lately.
As it turned out, the inauguration was pretty predictable. The pomp and circumstance was certainly toned down, as it should have been, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The theme of the day appeared to be a much-needed call for unity. I pray our nation and its leaders will heed that call.
Inauguration days always get my attention. I don’t talk politics much because things have become so polarized. The state of our leadership, and that goes for both sides of the aisle, is most troubling in my humble opinion. Inaugurations seem to cut through the bickering and bipartisanship. Whether the new commander-in-chief is a Republican or a Democrat, there’s a true sense of patriotism about them. They remind us of how blessed we are to be Americans.
During a break in the inauguration coverage I came across a Facebook post by my friend Bill Wilson. Bill shared his thoughts on seeing our nation’s capital on display. I found it very special and thought it worth sharing.
“Today has reminded me of an annual ritual of mine. In visiting Washington D.C. each summer to visit Emily (Bill’s daughter), for the last 8 years at least I have made sure I did a nice long run through the capitol area.
“Running around the Supreme Court and the Capitol Building, down the Mall and past the Smithsonian and the National Gallery and the Washington Monument is hard to beat.
“But the most meaningful part is when I stop at the Lincoln Monument. I know there is a drinking fountain in the cool hallway downstairs where the restrooms are. Suitably refreshed and hydrated, I climb the steps and walk past Abe sitting there in silent repose. I turn to the right wall and slowly read the words to the Gettysburg Address:
‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’
“Thinking about those words, and looking around at the visitors from the U.S. and all over the world who are sharing the space with me always reminds me how awesome, fragile and remarkable this exercise of democracy is.
“Like most such experiences, the intense emotions rather quickly wear off, and I'm soon back to having more mundane things on my mind. But seeing the TV shots of the National Mall again today, I was reminded of this ritual that I missed this year and I pray that I will be able to do it again soon. I hope you all have some experience like that which reminds you of what America means to you.”
I, too, have made a few early morning runs around the National Mall and can attest, just as Bill did, to the patriotic feelings that rise from seeing the monuments to our nation’s history and the memorials to its heroes.
Our nation has survived because its people and its leaders found a way to be united - to stand together and to work together for the greater good. I don’t know what awaits us in the next 12 months, let alone the next four years, but what I do know is this: We must find a way to work through our differences and realize we are all Americans.
It’s time for us to come together.