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America: A New Hope

By Grechen Wingerter, President of the Board of Trustees

It’s the evening before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. I’ve been holding my breath for four years. Tomorrow, I feel like I will finally be able to breathe again. I took a few breaths back in November after the election results were finalized, but we still weren’t done with the insecurity, with the cruelty, with the violence, or anger. There was sill uncertainty and fear.

I wrote that opening paragraph a week ago. I have finally released that breath. A collective sigh of relief could be felt all across the country as Joe Biden took the Oath of Office and officially became the 46th President of the United States. I’m not naïve enough to think this magically fixes all our problems in this country, but I do know it puts us back on path to being able to fix some things and to continue working towards fixing others. Still a long way to go, but for the first time in four years, I feel hope. Hope that we can see kindness and compassion restored. Hope that we can work towards the greater good as opposed to the select few. Hope that we can make amends. Hope that we can heal. Hope that we can move forward.

I watched the Inauguration while I was working. In between commenting on discussion posts for my classes, exchanging jubilant text messages with friends and family, I watched the arts and humanities, humanity and integrity, honor and grace be restored to our nation’s capitol. For this first time ever in my life, I cried while listening to the National Anthem. Most of it had to do with how beautifully is was sung by Lady Gaga, but also because the words had meaning again. I cried when Garth Brooks sang “Amazing Grace” — which is one of my favorites and has made me cry before — but never has Garth Brooks made me cry. I cried all through Amanda Gorman’s moving poem and her performance of it. I cried when Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first woman, first person of color Vice President. I cried when Joe Biden was sworn in. I cried when Reverend Silvester Beaman gave the Benediction. I cried throughout Joe Biden’s heart-felt and passionate speech. Basically, I cried all morning long — from the time The Obamas were introduced and walked down the Capitol steps, until everyone had exited at the end of the ceremony. But these weren’t tears of despair like I had experienced the night of November 8, 2016 when I sat on the stairs in my house and sobbed uncontrollably when it became clear Hillary Clinton had lost the election. Or the tears of anger as I marched with millions of women (and men) including friends and colleagues in Washington on January 21, 2017. No, these were tears of joy and relief as I watched a new hope being ushered into a new presidential term, a new year, a new decade even.

And so, even though the work is still unfinished, I have hope progress will be made. In one short week we’ve already seen progress in the Executive Branch. Let’s see if the Legislative Branch can follow suit.

And so, I hope…

“…For there is always light

If only we are brave enough to see it

If only we are brave enough to be it”

Time to do the work. Time to be brave to do, to see, to be.

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