Vol. 4   No. 2
January 26, 2009
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                     Our Urban President
    It was an awesome moment and a privilege to be present when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th
president of the United States on that cold day in Washington, D.C. At that moment, there was no cold as we —
the crowd of 1.8 million people — watched as Barack became the first African American president in U.S. history.
It was a crowd in which people were genuinely kind to each other, accommodating some of the squeezing
together that they wouldn’t tolerate in real life without some choice words being offered up. There was a whole lot
of love being offered up, reflected in the fact there was not one arrest made that day. Not one arrest! And
considering how packed the subway was right after the swearing-in, it was truly a miraculous feat. People were
filled with the moment.
    The day was best reflected when in a piece arranged by John Williams, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela
Montero and Anthony McGill— we later found out it had been recorded earlier and played due to the weather —
performed together in perfect harmony. It was a beautiful moment whose significance was not lost on the crowd.
At this moment in time, there was racial unity among the 1.8 million and race didn’t matter. At least for this
moment, we reflected what America could and should be.
    It wasn’t a day filled with the lofty rhetoric of speeches that I heard Barack Obama give since 2005. There wasn’
t one moment when the crowd went wild with applause due to a historical phrase that Barack had just uttered. No,
it was reflective of a man in control of himself and the moment. While Barack was making history, he wasn’t self-
absorbed by the fact. His speech clearly outlined the challenges and perils the United States faces, both
domestically and abroad.
    His tenor made me believe that we would recover from the economic chaos we are now experiencing as we
participate in the “remaking of America.” But as we ascend from the chaos, we will be a different America, one
that is more cooperative internationally in dealing with issues like terrorism and global warming and one that seeks
to engage all of its citizens at home.
    While Barack Obama being our first African American president is an emotional milestone in itself, what gives
me hope is that he is our first truly urban president in my lifetime. In a quick review of the presidents — and I stand
to be corrected here — I had to go back to Woodrow Wilson who was elected in 1912 to find an American
president who had cut his professional teeth in an urban setting. While Barack was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia,
he first worked in Chicago as a community organizer and later as a civil rights attorney, educator and state
legislator before being elected U.S. Senator and now President.
    Barack Obama has witnessed the decay of our inner-cities first-hand. He has seen the impact on communities
when major employers close down and leave a community to fend for itself. He has had to forge coalitions on a
very basic level to get things done. He has worked for change his entire professional career and now is our
President at a time when America truly needs change to happen.
    What gives me hope is that Barack Obama didn’t change the tenor of his message after he clinched the
Democratic nomination. Too often, Democratic candidates would tack far to the right after they won the
nomination in order to get elected in the general election to a point where you weren’t sure what they really stood
for. Barack stood firm on his vision for America and many disillusioned voters participated in the electoral process
again or for the first time to get him elected. Many of these voters were represented in the 1.8 million people who
were present on the National Mall that day.
    And Barack is determined to move forward with that vision. Since taking office, he has signed an executive
order closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, which has been used to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely. On
January 28, he met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ask for a plan for the
withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
    Most importantly, the economic stimulus package proposed by Barack Obama and passed by the House of
Representatives on January 28 contained $1 billion to upgrade Amtrak and $44 billion for our nation’s public
schools to begin the process of rebuilding America.
    With this beginning, we can start improving our mass transit system — a system used inordinately by poor
people for interstate travel — and creating truly conducive educational environments in our inner-city schools.
These investments in our physical infrastructure will pay handsome dividends for our society for years to come.
And these dividends will benefit all of America.
    I was truly blessed to be able to witness the swearing-in and many of the festivities surrounding the historic
inauguration of President Barack Obama. I felt it truly happened when as President Obama entered the
Midwestern Inaugural Ball, the Navy Band played Hail to the Chief and the service representatives saluted. Barack
Obama was our Commander-in-Chief. It was now a reality and he was in charge.
    More than likely in the years to come, I will be disappointed in some of the moves and decisions that President
Obama makes. But the respect I have for the man will be everlasting. The easy part was getting elected and being
inaugurated. The greatest challenges lie ahead. I can think of no better hands to place the fate of America in
than those of Barack Obama. I pray for his good health and success.

Stories & Columns

An interview with U.S. Sen. Russ
Feingold: Global opportunities,
by Jonathan Gramling

Urban League of Greater
Madison's 25th Annual MLK
Youth Recognition Breakfast,
by Heidi M. Pascual

Ashley Brown interned with the
Obama Campaign in Chicago:
Opportunity of a lifetime (Part 2),
by Jonathan Gramling

Witnessing the spectacle,
by Paul Barrows

Simple Things/Odetta, Miriam
Makeba, Freddie Hubbard and
Isaac Hayes: Thank You!
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

UW-Madison students hold
Obama accountable,
by Jessica Pharm

Poetic Tongues: Tears over
Martin and Barack,
by Fabu

29th Annual State of Wisconsin
Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr: "Dare to Live your Dream,"
by Heidi M. Pascual

Centerspread:We Are One
Presidential Inauguration Concert
at the Lincoln Memorial: A
woodstock for the Joshua
Generation,
by  Jonathan Gramling

Rev. Trinette McCray speaks at
City-County King Observance:
Faith and History (2),
by Jonathan Gramling

Georgetown University's Let
Freedom Ring at the Kennedy
Center: A spiritual salute to MLK,
by Jonathan Gramling

Politicas de hoy/ Israel, verdugo,
no tiene verguenza!,
por Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran

The silence of our friends,
by Barb Olson

24th Annual City-County Martin
Luther King Jr. Holiday
Observance: "The inspiration of
Dreams; the responsibilities of
Change,"
by Laura Salinger

China Dispatch: Ghosts and old
friends,
by Andrew Gramling

East High School students to
compete at NSBE Convention:
Robotic maneuvers,
by Jonathan Gramling

Poetry: ROAD SIGNS,
by Dr. Daniel Kunene

11th Annual Achieving Greatness
through Service Day: Youth
tribute to MLK: "We're here to
serve,"
by Laura Salinger

An interview with Ebony Fashion
Fair Model Andrea Keesee:
Determination and dues,
by Jonathan Gramling
MARTIN AND BARACK
The King Holiday and the Obama Inauguration