Local View: On Tuesday, a sound heard around the world
I saw history made last Tuesday. How often in a lifetime does a person get to say that? I dragged my aging, arthritic body down to our National Mall in Washington, D.C., and stood in the cold with at least a million other crazy folk to celebrate ...
I saw history made last Tuesday. How often in a lifetime does a person get to say that?
I dragged my aging, arthritic body down to our National Mall in Washington, D.C., and stood in the cold with at least a million other crazy folk to celebrate a seismic event in the history of our great union. I was freezing and claustrophobic. I was pushed, prodded and herded. I stood for hours and then stood some more.
And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
I can only begin to imagine what it was like for the African-Americans in the crowd to see Barack Obama place his hand on Lincoln's Bible. Some of them knew, and all of them remembered, an America where little black girls in white Sunday dresses died in the bombed-out rubble of a church. An America where 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten and tossed in a river to die for whistling at a white woman. An America where three young black men were dragged from jail and lynched on the streets of Duluth.
No wonder tears were flowing. No wonder fathers and grandfathers hoisted their little ones on their shoulders to catch glimpses of the flag-draped Capitol and the far distant president. No wonder they said, "Look. Look hard. This is history."
There's a universal yearning for equality and dignity, and we still have far to go. We still live in a world where killings are done in the name of God. We still live in a world where a young man is beaten and left to die on a cold prairie because he is gay. We still live in a world where acid is thrown in the faces of little girls who simply want to learn.
But for now, hope, not despair, is the watchword. For on Jan. 20, 2009, in our great public space, across from the Lincoln Memorial where Marian Anderson sang and Martin Luther King dreamed, Barack Obama put his hand on that Bible, and the racial barrier broke like the boom of a jet piercing the sound barrier.
And it was a sound heard around the world.
Carol Person practiced law in Duluth from 1981 to 1993, when she was appointed a judge of state district court, chambered in Duluth. She served until her retirement in 2004.