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President launches 2nd term with bold return to his base

By George E. Curry Contributing Writer | 1/25/2013, 2:56 p.m.
The symbolism of the first family arriving for Barack Obama’s inauguration – with daughters Malia and Sasha color coordinated to match mom and dad, along with their maternal grandmother Marian Robinson – is one of the most enduring images from Monday’s inaugural ceremonies. It was a reaffirmation to the nation that this, too, is black America. (Courtesy photo).

Those who marched and died in Birmingham, Mississippi and other parts of the nation demanding civil rights could not have imagined that 50 years later their America would swear in the first African American President of the United States for a second term on the national holiday of one of their comrades, Atlantan Martin Luther King, Jr.

And just as television captured the struggle, it also captured the fruits of that labor as every major broadcast television stations as well as top cable channels like CNN and MSNBC covered the activities of the 57th Annual Presidential Inauguration all day on Monday, Jan. 21.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, whose husband, Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers was gunned down in front of their home on June 12, 1963, became the first woman and layperson to deliver an inaugural invocation.

Knowing more than anyone on the program the sacrifice that made this two-term president a possibility, Evers-Williams did not forget those like her husband and Dr. King who paid the price for freedom with their lives. She assured the crowd that, “They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye but all around us thankful that their living was not in vain.”

Later, Georgia’s own Congressman John Lewis, who spoke at the historic March on Washington, told CBS that for those who think things haven’t changed, “just take a walk in my shoes.”

That point was further illustrated when a CBS reporter asked a young African American boy whose family attended the inauguration what he wanted to be and he said, “President.”

In his inaugural address, President Obama touched on everything from slavery, women’s rights, civil rights and gay rights, gun violence and climate change to caring for the elderly, eradicating poverty, reforming immigration, the need for bi-partisan participation and a host of other pressing issues.

From Latina Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Vice President Biden to Beyoncé singing the national anthem, this inauguration was arguably the most diverse in U.S. history. As the cable channels continued the coverage into the night to showcase the balls, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Jamie Foxx all performed.

Most enduring, however, should be the symbolism of the first family. Early in the day when the family appeared, with daughters Malia and Sasha color coordinated to match mom and dad, who happen to be First Lady and President of the United States, along with their maternal grandmother Marian Robinson, it was a reaffirmation to the nation that this, too, is black America.

On Twitter, @CocoaPopps called out CNN for comments likening the Obamas to the Huxtables in the White House, reminding all “There’s more than one educated, affluent black family in America.” On ABC early in the festivities, NBA legend Bill Russell was misidentified as actor Morgan Freeman. OK, so things are far from perfect but the good news is, we are getting there.

When all the nation can “ooh and aah” a black man, born of a white woman from the Midwest and an African man from Kenya, who happens to be president as he dances with his flawless wife raised by a working class parents on the southside of Chicago for the second time, there is indeed reason to keep dreaming.

Fifty years ago, television was a new medium that came into its own by doggedly documenting what was then deemed the nation’s “Negro problem.” Cameras rolled as throngs of black people, many of them in their own cities and states, marched for freedom, justice and equality, with far too many being punished with clubs and hoses for their audacity to hope.

Dr. King, Roy Wilkins and Whitney M. Young were sought after for “60 Minutes” and “Meet the Press” style interviews.

To have that same medium turn its cameras on one of the solutions 50 years later – with the blessings of battle-weary veterans like Myrlie Evers-Williams and John Lewis also noted and documented – is the ultimate progress report.

Not only was the revolution televised but so was the implementation of the dream and that should inspire us all to continue dig in deep and, in the words of President Obama, “answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”