I watched the inauguration of President Joseph Biden with my students yesterday.
It was quite a day.
When Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President, my students erupted in cheers. I was actually startled by their reaction.
When Joe Biden was sworn in as President, their cheers were even louder.
As the ceremony proceeded, I sat at the front of the classroom and provided context. I explained that Kamala Harris was being escorted by the Capitol police officer who led the mob of insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber two weeks before. I told them that she was wearing purple to honor Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
I told them about the history of the two Bibles that Vice President Harris placed her hand upon while taking the oath of office and the enormous Bible that President Biden placed his hand upon.
I told them about the former Presidents in attendance. I explained why President Carter was likely absent from the ceremony. We talked about the First Lady and the Second Gentleman.
I had tears in my eyes for so much of the time. Happily, my mask hid most of my emotions, though I saw tears in the eyes of some students, too. As the children cheered Joe Biden’s inauguration, one student whispered, “Thank God it’s finally over.”
It would’ve been great to watch the ceremony with my own family, but spending it with my students was a close second.
I felt remarkably, unexpectedly lighter as soon as President Biden took the oath of office.
It’s been an incredibly challenging and, in many ways, unbelievable four years.
Little did I know when Donald Trump won the election in 2016 that I would eventually add my name to a lawsuit that would force him to unblock me from a Twitter account that is now permanently shut down. I had friends genuinely concerned for my safety in response to the tweets I frequently sent to Trump and repeatedly warned me to cease my rhetoric. In the face of a rising authoritarian leader, they worried that if he gained too much power, there might someday be a knock on my door.
I began taking my passport with me wherever I went, just in case.
It’s crazy but true.
For four long years, I constantly worried about what Trump would do next. Which authoritarian regime would he befriend? Which intelligence secret might he accidentally leak? How many more children would he cage on the border? How might he further ignore and even exacerbate the pandemic? What he might do next with a Sharpie. Or bleach. Or a porn star.
Students in my class cried on the day after Donald Trump was elected President. Students of Mexican heritage worried that they might never see their families again. A black student asked me why Americans elected a racist person for President.
Four years later, my students erupted into spontaneous cheers.
But the most surprising thing for me was the realization that I didn’t need to be the positive, informed, supportive person in the lives of so many friends anymore. While so many of the people I know worried about the state of our country and the dangers of a President who truly cared for nothing but himself and his ability to remain in power, I found myself constantly consoling people. Ensuring them that the country would be okay. Reminding them that our country has survived far greater threats than Donald Trump. Providing historical context and Constitutional underpinnings.
I made every effort to be a positive beacon of light for many of my friends over the past four years. In many ways, I was oppressively optimistic.
When President Biden took the oath of office, I quite suddenly realized that I wouldn’t need to do this anymore, and I had no idea how much weight that constant, unrelenting support had placed on my shoulders. It was a job I was happy to do, but when it lifted, I finally realized how hard it had been.
I actually sighed a deep, much needed sigh of relief.
Our country is not repaired. We are still a deeply divided people. A virus is killing thousands of us every day. Millions are out of work. Families across America are hungry.
We face enormous challenges. But at least we will once again have professionals at the helm. Experts in their fields. Public servants who understand how the bureaucracy works. Scientists who base their decisions on fact and reason.
We also have a President and Vice President who will not spend their days in a constantly cycles of lies, deceit, and self-aggrandizement.
For the first time in four years, competent, caring public servants are in charge of our country.
It’s truly morning in America.