Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hail to the (Outgoing) Chief

It is Inauguration Eve, and I can't let the clock run out without taking just a moment to reflect on a few stand out moments (for me) from these last eight years of the Presidency of Barack Obama.

I think back to his first election November 4, 2008. Standing on the stage at the theater where we'd gathered for the Prop 8 results and watching him make his victory speech from Chicago ... while we watched the returns coming in that would (temporarily) take away the Constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry in California. And I remember what a moment it was when we heard our president-elect say these words:

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It was 2008 -- and we were coming out of an era where the President of the United States supported the FMA (Federal Marriage Amendment) that would have enshrined discrimination against LGBT families into the Constitution. And we stood there and heard the words "gay and straight" come out of the President-elect's mouth. Stunning.

Yes, we can.

After his second election in November 2012 I was blessed to have great friends -- Julena and Leon -- who helped make it possible to go to the second Obama Inauguration. We got tickets through our Representatives' offices (still owe you one, Adam Schiff!) and with thousands of others made our way to Washington for January 21, 2013.

It was an extraordinary privilege to actually BE there after all those years of watching it on television. And then ... to hear him say these words in his Inaugural Address:

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth." 

Never thought I'd live long enough to hear those words come out of a President's mouth. A simply transcendent moment of hope, joy, and empowerment.

Yes, we can.

And then there was May 9, 2013 -- I remember getting a text from my friend Bishop Gene Robinson. "I don't know where you are or what you're doing but listen to the news. Your President is about to do something good and you're not going to want to miss it."

I was actually finishing up our spring clergy conference in Long Beach and had checked out of my hotel room ... so I sat in the hotel lobby and read the breaking news on my laptop: that in his interview with Robin Williams he said “At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,”

Yes, we can.
And yes we did. June 28, 2014

And then there was July 21, 2014 -- the day President Obama signed the Executive Order ending federal employment discrimination against LGBT Americans.

I got the invitation to attend the signing in the East Room on Friday ... and in spite of my initial "there is no way this is going to happen" reaction, by Sunday I was on a plane to DC and on Monday I was in the actual East Room of the actual White House watching the actual President of the United States sign the actual Executive Order. And ... wait for it ... I got to get my picture taken with one of the actual First Dogs: Sunny.

It's Inauguration Eve. Tomorrow I will suit up, show up and report for duty as member of Team Sacred Resistance. But tonight? Tonight I want to look at old pictures and remember highlights of the last eight years and give thanks for the extraordinary gift of being alive to experience the gift of this President.

Thank you, Mr. President. Godspeed and God Bless.

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