I was thinking about the first inauguration I ever witnessed, of our 41st president, George H.W. Bush. And when I think about it now, I am embarrassed by how much I took the experience for granted.
It was a crisp, sunny day. It was cold, but not horribly so. Our little party of three — consisting of myself, a newly minted White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal; the senior White House correspondent Gerry Seib; and my bureau chief Al Hunt — had great seats. We weren't exactly close, but we were right at the foot of the stage, dead center, and could see everything and everybody.
And I think I was more in awe of the great seats, which for some reason, I attributed to Al's magical powers than to random assignment, than I was by the fact that I was witnessing this great moment of transition, which even now is denied to so many around the world.
Can I just tell you? I will never make that mistake again. When I think about how hard so many people have worked and how much they have sacrificed to get to this place, at this time, for this moment, I am in awe. It is really hard to put it into words, especially words that will do justice to the occasion.
I am talking both about the thousands of people who traveled thousands of miles this weekend to get here, and about the millions who sacrificed their lives, time and treasure over the decades so we could be here.
The sons and daughters of enslaved Africans; the sons and daughters of slave owners; the sons and daughters of poor, peasant migrants; the sons and daughters of tycoons, of tobacco farmers and soldiers and washerwomen and sugar cane workers ... down through the generations.
They are all here, or heading here, to bear witness. It is a privilege to be among them. And nothing I can say can really compare to what has been said and will be said ...
Except, thank you.