Inauguration Day: A Reflection

On Election Day 2008, I posted the following reflection of the day on Facebook & Myspace. Here it is:

I think that November 4, 2008 is going to go down in history as one of the most important election days in the last 80 years. For me, today has been amazing and exciting. Let me break down the day for you:

6:30 a.m.
I arrived at the KINK fm radio station studio bright and early this morning to take part in the first ever KINK Election Day Town Hall. I was one of several lucky listeners chosen to participate in this cool event. Brett Dennen, a musician and activist, performed several of his songs throughout the morning. Senator Gordon Smith, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and Jefferson Smith from the Oregon Bus Project both appeared and spoke to the group. All of us had opportunities to speak on the air about why we vote and what makes this election different than others. Matt Zaffino from KGW gave the weather forecast for election day and also gave me a bad time for having not voted yet. I’ll get to that a little later. I was able to talk with Brett Dennen quite a bit. He was on the Mayercraft Carrier cruise earlier this year and some of my friends had good things to say about him as a person and a performer. I mentioned I was a big Brandi Carlile fan. He told me he had toured with her (or maybe just played a few shows with her) early in her career. He even shared some tidbits of information about Brandi that I had never heard before. I won’t divulge those details here, but I did learn something new about her recording experience with T-Bone Burnett, which was really cool. I had stuck around to talk with Brett and a few other people and ended up being in the studio as he recorded a track, hopefully for the next KINK Live CD. I really felt energized and excited for the election day after this amazing experience. I’m so glad I woke up at 5:30 a.m. today so I could participate in this wonderful opportunity.

1:00 p.m.
I took the MAX into downtown Portland and met up with my good friend, Jenn Levo. Whenever I have a day off during the week, we’ll get together for a late lunch. I greeted Jenn and noticed she was wearing an adorable pair of knickers, which allowed her to show off the knee-high “OBAMA” socks she was sporting. We walked through Pioneer Square (aka Portland’s Living Room), we noticed a ballot drop box. We stood there for a little bit and watched as people were pulling up their cars, getting out and putting their ballots in the box. Folks were walking by and putting their ballots in the box. Onlookers were cheering on people as they placed their ballots in the box. There was this sense of comraderie and dare I say, patriotism as I watched democracy in action.

We continued along the way to our destination. Lately, we’ve been hitting up the food carts on SW 9th & Alder. One of the docs I work with is a bit of a foodie and he told me about this place on the corner of 10th & Alder that serves these asian dumplings. Basically, they are dumplings with a bit of meat and some hot broth inside them. When you bite into them, there is a gush of broth-y goodness and then as you chew, the taste of the meat filling overcomes your tastebuds. It’s like a party in your mouth! I’m definitely hitting up this place again. After lunch we headed over to Starbucks to take advantage of the free 12 oz. coffees they were handing out if you told them you voted.

3:30 p.m.
I got home from lunch, sat down on my couch and filled out my ballot. Since I have been so heavily promoting voter registration and making sure my friends and family vote, a lot of my friends, and even complete strangers like the guy at the meat counter today or Matt Zaffino, the weatherman for KGW were surprised to find that I had not filled out my ballot yet. Well, let me explain.

In high school, I had a civics instructor who did an amazing job of teaching me the importance of voting and being involved in the political process. Thank you Mr. Key. Because of you, I have voted in every major presidential election since 1992 and most local elections. Because I was in college and living out of state for the 1992 and 1996 elections, I have never voted at a polling place. I have always voted by mail. The state of Oregon passed the vote-by-mail measure in 1998 and I have always voted this way. My ritual, which may seem a little weird to some, is to always wait until Election Day to fill out my ballot and personally drive it over to the Multnomah County Elections Office to make sure it reaches it’s destination.

Today, I sat down, filled out my ballot, placed it in the secrecy envelope, placed that envelope in the next envelope, signed the envelope, and sealed it. I grabbed my keys, locked the house up, put the dog in the truck and headed out to drop my ballot off.

4:00 p.m.
I arrived at the Multnomah County Election Office and drove up to the ballot drop-off box. I placed my ballot and my sister’s ballot in the box. I drove off, continuing south on 11th Street to my next stop. Earlier in the day I had gotten an announcement on Facebook from Modified Printing about a shirt they were selling and I wanted to make sure I got mine before they sold out. I drove over to SE 11th & Division to Modified and saw Bob, one of the owners when I walked in. I asked about the shirts and he pointed me to where they were. Some would say I might have been counting my chickens before they hatched, but I bought a black shirt with the following phrase on it, “BLACK IS THE NEW PRESIDENT”. I thought it was a clever idea.

5:00 p.m.
I arrived home and settled in to start watching the election results. Polls on the east coast had closed at 4:00 p.m. PST, so results started slowly coming in. McCain had taken a small lead, taking some of the states he had been predicted to take. The polls on the Left Coast (aka West Coast) weren’t set to close until 8:00 p.m. so I sat in for the long haul. Things got really interesting when they announced that Obama had taken Ohio. At that point, all he needed was Oregon, Washington, and California and he would have enough electoral votes.

8:00 p.m.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m., NBC declared Barack Obama the new president-elect of the United States of America! My first reaction was, “Wait a minute! Our polls just closed, how can they be declaring a winner already?” Well, even though the polls just closed, they have been counting votes all day. Apparently, this was enough information to declare a winner in each of these states. My initial reaction was one of shock & disbelief. Was I dreaming? Was this really happening? A sense of pride in my country and the democratic process began to well up into tears of happiness and amazement. We just elected the first black President of the United States! Never in my lifetime, did I think this would happen. Text messages started to come in. Jenn called me and I told her to come on over so we could watch the acceptance speech, promising to record it if it came on while she was on the way. In the meantime, John McCain gave a really nice concession speech. It was gracious and very touching. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person and as an American. I just don’t think he is what this country needs right now. Jenn and Sarah showed up a little while later and we hugged and congratulated each other on the victory. We watched Obama’s acceptance speech. Tears began to stream down my face again as I was inspired by the words of a great orator and now, president-elect of this country. It is so hard for me to express myself right now.

Know this: I am proud to be an American. I am proud to have taken part in the democratic process through voting. I have great hope for the future. I feel vindicated and believe we can bring America back to its previous place of honor and respect in the world. Si se puede! Yes we can!

Today, I forgot to set the DVR to record the Inauguration. I'm kind of mad about that. I got a late start this morning and the dog didn't understand my need to watch TV. She was more concerned about her morning W-A-L-K so I had to be content listening to as much of the festivities on NPR as I drove the dog to the dog park. I was able to hear snippets of the speech throughout the day, and I do have a copy of it that I plan to read tomorrow. I have read Gene Robinson's invocation and I have read Rick Warren's invocation. I have watched a bit of the non-stop coverage of the inauguration all day today while going in and out of patient rooms at work.

Even though I wasn't able to see or hear as much as I would have liked, I do have a few observations and reflections:

1) I was drawn to tears on more than one occasion today while listening to either parts of speeches or just watching the pomp and circumstance taking place in the many ceremonies.

2) Today was an amazing day. Not because we have our first black president. Not because Bush is finally gone. Today was an amazing day because for the first time in a LONG time, I have hope. Hope that America will be a better place. Hope that our world is going to change in a positive way. I am cautiously optimistic. I am ready to answer the call of our new President to serve in my community and to make my country a better place to live. I hope my fellow countrymen are up to the challenge. I know I am.

3) I think it was completely tasteless and irresponsible for the Oregonian newspaper to think it was OKAY to make the sex scandal of new mayor, Sam Adams, be the lead story on the front page. Today was an important day in U.S. history and they chose to focus on Sam Adams. Many of you may or may not know this about me, but I really, really do not like the new mayor of Portland. He does not listen to the people, he pushes through his agenda and now we have this, a mayor who thinks it is okay to have sex with 18 year old interns. While legal, this just seems morally and ethically wrong. I detest that he lied about it and thinks that we will just forgive and forget. He should resign. End of story. The Oregonian should have reported on it, it just shouldn't have been the lead story, on today of all days.

Well, I guess that is it for me for now. I've worked a long 10-hour shift and need to go to bed. I just wanted to offer some thoughts on today while they were still fresh in my head.