Week in Review 1-15-2021

A personal reflection by Hollis Wein, JAC Communications/Research Director

It was 1988. I had just arrived back home in Washington, D.C. after my first presidential campaign, the losing campaign of Michael Dukakis. My colleagues and I poured our heart and soul into that campaign. We travelled the country, slept on floors, and knocked on doors.

It was a crushing defeat, but we were energized by the opportunity to effect change, to see America up close and personal, and to play a part in our great democratic process.

When inauguration day came, I, along with several friends, went to the Capitol grounds for George H. W. Bush’s swearing in. We went because we could. As an American, it was one of my proudest moments to stand there.

No one asked about my political party. No one chased me away. No one shouted me down. There were no armed troops and vehicles in the street, and there was no fear of violence. I stood with other Americans to witness one of the most unique parts of our democracy — the peaceful transfer of power.

I feverishly worked against George Bush. I didn’t share any of his political values and I believed that he would not be good for our country. But on that gray January day, George Bush became the President
of the United States. The respect and awe for the office triumphed over political bitterness and ideology.

As we get ready for Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, it will be a different scene. The Washington, D.C. I knew and loved in 1988 is barely recognizable. The pomp and circumstance surrounding this sacred event will be absent. COVID and security threats have overshadowed the festivities along with the current President’s second impeachment.

I am hopeful it will not take another 32 years for a return to that moment. A generation of young people, too young to vote, will watch this inauguration on TV, phones, and computers. They will think this is normal. But it is not. We cannot allow this moment in time to become our new normal.

Living in the past is not always helpful.  But at times like this it provides much needed hope and a goal to work toward.