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How Biden's inauguration ignites hope for a new beginning in America

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 22, 2021 5:00 am

Last Wednesday afternoon in Washington, DC, history cascaded through time, filling its chasms and crevices to the brim with glass-ceiling firsts, whether you are American or not.

On Jan. 20, in the second year of the pandemic, the oldest-elected and second Catholic president of the United States, and the first woman and first person of color to be elected vice president, were sworn into office in a place protected by a phalanx of 25,000 National Guards and surrounded by an audience that was but a fraction of the guardsmen. 

The audience was a relatively small gathering of some 2,000 masked men — including 200 VIPs composed of former presidents diplomats, justices, government officials, and a few Hollywood stars. “Motley” in comparison to the 500,000 that were estimated to have attended Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

The day before his inauguration, then President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff attended a COVID memorial service by the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial, where 400 beacons, each one representing 1,000 people who perished during the pandemic, were lit around the reflecting pool.

Despite this somber tribute (“To heal, we must remember,” said Biden), many could not contain their hopes for a new beginning. Filmmaker Ken Burns told Anderson Cooper on CNN on the eve of the inauguration that he feels like “it’s New Year’s Eve, we just got the dates wrong.”

A netizen posted on Facebook in brightly colored letters on inauguration eve, “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya Tomorrow, You’re Only a Day Away.”

Fil-Am Dr. Geraldine Mayorposted unabashedly on the eve of Jan. 20, “I am taking a day off. Tomorrow will feel like Liberation Day.”

Because Biden is a man inspired by the dawning of many possibilities, I look forward to his presidency like I would a rising sun on the horizon. A horizon I can see, wherever in the world I may be.

Democratic congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, however, acknowledged the fears of those invited to the inauguration in light of the storming of the Capitol last Jan. 6 as well as the deadly COVID-19 virus that has, as of this writing, claimed some 400,000 American lives. He admitted to CNN Wednesday that even some Democratic legislators invited to the VIP box for the inauguration were choosing to stay home.

“Between the virus and security, it will be a challenge,” conceded Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez to this writer.

And yet, he chose to be there.

“It is important for our country to show support to an ally,” stressed Romualdez. (Sixty years ago, at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the youngest elected and first Catholic POTUS, it was Carlos P. Romulo, then ambassador to the US, who was at the Capitol to represent the Philippines.)

After all, according to Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin in a speech during the celebration of Philippine-American Friendship Day in July 2019, “A country’s natural ally is always the one that is too far to get into one’s hair, yet with a reach long enough to deliver a strong punch at a common enemy. Two countries fit that bill; one far more than the other, and that is the United States.”

Joe Biden is 78 years old and becomes the leader of the free world as the president of the US, said to be the world’s only remaining superpower (at least before COVID-19). As commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces, he can unilaterally launch nuclear weapons.

His election, thus, is a validation of the leadership and immense contribution to society not just of senior citizens, but senior citizens pushing 80. While some people Biden’s age may be set out to pasture, relegated to nursing homes, or babysitting their apos, this man is showing that, hey, age is but a number when it comes to decisive leadership. You can choose to flex your mental muscles even beyond retirement age.

My late father Frank Mayor, a natural-born American who lived in the US only in his senior years, was blessed with gainful employment until he passed away a week before he turned 78. Working gave him a sense of purpose. According to online sources, older people tend to work longer — instead of shorter — hours, as feared by some employers.

Indeed, as Vice President Kamala Harris said the day after her election was sealed, the US is “the land of possibilities.” When a 78-year-old man can be commander-in-chief and a woman of color can be vice president, we know whereof she speaks. It isn’t just rhetoric. When we believe — not just in possibilities — but in making what is possible doable, glass ceilings are there for the shattering.

 60 YEARS AGO: Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States. 

History books tell us that when JFK became president, he exuded hope. He was the six-foot-tall version of hope with a New England twang. Many presidents, including Bill Clinton, have said they were inspired by JFK.

In Where Were You? America Remembers the JFK Assassination, compiled and edited by Gus Russo and Harry Moses, Biden talked of JFK in almost the same way Kamala Harris spoke of her own ascent to the vice presidency.

“I was a senior in high school when John Kennedy was elected. To me, it was all about possibilities. He always talked about everything, but you had a sense that there was nothing beyond our capacity. From his inaugural speech to the speech about the moon shot, it was all about possibilities. That’s what sticks with me most about his legacy. His legacy is that that’s what we are as a nation. We’re a nation that attracts people because of the possibilities that exist.”

Because Biden is a man inspired by the dawning of many possibilities, I look forward to his presidency like I would a rising sun on the horizon. A horizon I can see, wherever in the world I may be.

Banner photo from whitehouse.gov and Joe Biden's Instagram account.