Barack Obama is the first president-elect since Ike to take a train to Washington. He retraced part of the train route that his political hero Abraham Lincoln took to his inauguration in 1861.
BTW - Obama isn't the only Lincoln fan. At Teddy Roosevelt's Inauguration he wore a ring that contained a lock of Lincoln's hair.
From the New York Times: "PHILADELPHIA — President-elect Barack Obama stepped onto a vintage train car, built at a time when a black man’s ascendancy to the presidency was impossible in America, and traveled to Washington on Saturday in a three-day prelude to his inauguration as the country’s 44th president.
As he did throughout his campaign, Mr. Obama evoked imagery of Abraham Lincoln, in word and deed, as he embarked on an abridged version of Lincoln’s journey by rail to the capital before his own inaugural festivities in 1861. The trip offered Mr. Obama, who on Tuesday will be sworn in as the first African-American president, a segue from celebrating his victory to confronting the daunting challenges that await him in office. [...]”
TV talking heads were wondering just how many people would actually come out into the bitter cold to see this train. But there was no way to count the ones who stood by the tracks, or the thousands who braved freezing temperatures to show up at 4:30 AM to wait at the train stations where Obama spoke.
There were clusters of people everywhere as the train rolled through mostly rural and lower-income areas. Several lone people were clinging dangerously to the hillside just feet from the tracks, waving as the train came and then after it passed.
One woman outside her mobile home waved a flag almost bigger than she was...two men waved from the top of an 18-wheeler's trailer, hardly dressed for the weather. Puzzled but well bundled babies were held high above the crowd.
I loved watching this train journey...loved watching history unfold, loved watching the excitement of the people as the train went by. Kids and grownups were jumping up and down, waving flags...some with tears streaming down their cheeks. They waved signs saying, "Hail to the Chief" and "Hallelujah - We did it!" Obama kept pulling the train whistle to greet them.
I also got tears in my eyes. To see people of all races joined together in their joy and excitement about what is about to happen in our nation's capitol. It is almost unbelievable. Especially to a person like me who grew up in the middle of the Civil Rights movement and remembers "Whites Only" drinking fountains. Barack Obama's presidency is one that I never thought I'd see.
Some of the American scenes we saw out the train window weren't very pretty...boarded up row housing, the dilapidated slums where some people are forced to live. A lot of Americans forget about this side of our country.
Such sad scenes just remind me that our nation is facing huge uphill climbs on so many fronts, but for the first time in eons I actually feel hope. Very powerful.
The last time our economy really tanked - the Great Depression - Franklin Roosevelt came to town and gave people hope through his inaugural speech. He started a lot of initiatives right away during the first 100 days. Still, we didn't pull out of the slump for a long time...it took years, but Roosevelt had given people a sense of hope, so they didn't give up on him.
Obama is doing the same thing, he has also built a bridge of hope to reassure people that life is going to get better, that we're moving in the right direction, that we can have more confidence in the future.
But he is not a magician, he can't transform the job situation in just a few months, so his changes will not help us over night. He can't turn the economy around by himself...he said, "I'm going to need you..."
He truly will need our help...and even though we are not the people who vote on Capitol Hill, we are the people who can pressure Capitol Hill.
A bright new day dawns, my friends...relish it.