Just before 11:00 this morning Mary Hiteman, Director of the Weekday Early Education ministry at First Baptist Church, asked me if I had “two minutes.”
“Sure,” I said.
She led me down the hall to one of the children’s classrooms, and introduced me to a two-year-old girl who was wearing a T-shirt with Barack Obama’s picture on the front.
“Who’s that?” Mary asked, pointing at the shirt.
“Obama!” said the girl.
I had squatted down to her level to say hello and told her, “I like your shirt.”
“I’m glad you do!” said one of the teachers, making it obvious that Mr. Obama had not been her first choice for president.
“Well,” I said, “this is one of those days when we come together as a country, regardless of who we voted for. On November 4th you vote your conscience—and I’m glad you did—but on January 20th we support our president.”
As I watched coverage of the inauguration later I marveled at how well we seemed to be doing that. This orderly transfer of power, almost unique among the nations of the world, was carried off with a generosity that made me proud to be an American. Mr. Bush was extraordinarily gracious in handing over the reins of leadership, and Mr. Obama was equally gracious about receiving them. There were no overtly partisan remarks; very few boos from the crowd. On the whole we seemed to understand that there were larger issues at stake, and that if we were going to prosper as a nation it would take all of us working together.
So, three cheers for Mr. Obama and three cheers for Mr. Bush and all the cheers in the world for the way power was passed from one president to another on this day. Just before Bush boarded the helicopter that would carry him away to his new civilian life he and Obama not only shook hands, they hugged.
Where else but America?