On Wednesday I listened as the 46th president was sworn into office. My daughters were nearby, but oblivious to the moment, since I was listening to a radio broadcast on my headphones. They probably assumed that I was listening to a podcast or trying to get two minutes of peace.
Although I wanted to share the moment with them — especially my six-year-old — I was afraid. After the violence at the Capitol, I had no idea what to expect from the inauguration. I didn’t want to have to explain if we saw armed military on screen or, goodness forbid, violence.
But once the inauguration was through without any concerning outbursts, I started to think about how to present it to my daughter. Since then we’ve been watching short videos of the inauguration, which frankly is more in line with a six-year-old’s attention span. Here’s what we’re talking about, and what I want my daughter to recognize from this week.
Like many Americans, I came to the inauguration jaded, hurt by the violence that we saw earlier this month and the many ways that the previous administration failed to protect this country. At the tough spots during the past year I’ve felt like the whole system is just doomed to fail.
However, as I watched the inauguration I saw people who were hopeful for our collective future. President Biden presented a message of hope and unity, and poet Amanda Gorman presented those ideals with breathtaking articulateness. This presented a great opportunity to talk to my daughter about how many adults are fighting for her to have the best future possible.
I would have loved if we were swearing in someone who wasn’t another old white man. Despite that, looking around photos from the inauguration, I could see a level of diversity that hasn’t been seen at previous inaugural events.
Of course the headliner of the diversity was Vice President Kamala Harris, a Black and south Asian woman. Then came Andrea Hall, a Black woman who works in the male-dominated world of firefighters. She received the pledge not only in English, but American Sign Language, reaching out to Americans with hearing loss, and touching those with other disabilities. Finally, Gorman’s appearance. Watching these women, I spoke with my daughter about how many people could see themselves reflected on the inauguration stage, and why everyone should be represented there.
The 2021 inauguration will always be an easy one to spot in the history books. The masks, socially-distanced seating, absence of a crowd and even the wiping down of the microphone reflected the way that this long-held event adapted to keep people safe during the pandemic.
I pointed out to my daughter that sometimes we have to be willing to make changes. Refraining from hugging and handshaking was no doubt a disappointment for many at the inauguration, but it was the right thing to do. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of encouraging more difficult — but important — sacrifices to get the virus under control.
The Work Still To Be Done
With all the hope that the election brought, it’s still easy to see the work that needs to be done. Yes, there was more diversity, but it was not on par with the beautiful and expansive diversity of the United States.
When we spoke about the significance of Harris’ vice presidency, my daughter wasn’t satisfied: “But I think there should be a woman president,” she said. I smiled, knowing that her generation will be able to take up the torch from ours, and make even more progress on representation.
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