(HOST) To military veteran and commentator Larry Doane, Inauguration Day is a cause for celebrating what it represents.
(DOANE) As the world turns its eyes towards Washington and President-Elect Barack Obama’s historic inauguration, my own attention is drawn to the nature of the event itself. Because of Mr. Obama’s skin color and our nation’s history with race, many see this day as particularly historic, or even miraculous. But I am struck by how much more miraculous the peaceful transition of power between any two political rivals is.
During my time in uniform, I’ve learned that in much of the world political disputes are settled through violence and brute force, rather than primaries and ballot boxes. In places from West Africa to Latin America to Southeast Asia, political change often comes from the barrel of a gun rather than the will of the people. It is in light of this disheartening reality that I find our own peaceful transition of power to be so remarkable. It is even more remarkable when you consider the nature of the two administrations involved in this inauguration. Regardless of your individual political leanings, it is undeniable that an Obama administration will be markedly different from the Bush administration.
During a recent trip to Senegal, I had an opportunity to work with my military counterparts in the Senegalese army. I particularly remember one conversation with a young officer who had been to the United States on a military exchange. We talked about pop culture and fast food and joked about how military bases seemed all to look the same, no matter what country you were in. His face brightened when our conversation turned to the politics of his country. He expressed his pride that his country had just undergone its first peaceful transition of power from one political party to another. He was even more proud that his military remained neutral throughout the election and swore to support whoever won. His unabashed satisfaction was infectious, and I soon found myself reflecting upon my own training and especially the oath of office I took as a young lieutenant. Like every other American in service, I swore allegiance not to any individual or officeholder, to any king or queen, but to a piece of paper. I swore, just as President-Elect Obama will, to defend the Constitution of the United States. This allegiance to an ideal, rather than to any man or party, is at the core of the greatness of our country and is the cornerstone of all we stand for.
The streets of Washington will soon be filled with Americans, there to witness the inauguration of our next President. Among this throng will be thousands of servicemen and women filling roles from the ceremonial to the practical. Throughout the pomp and the spectacle of the day, I hope that all of us watching will take a moment to realize just how incredible this event is. I, for one, will be filled sense of thanksgiving, grateful that I live in a country where the soldiers lining the streets on inauguration day are there not to place a leader into power but simply to salute the flag and join in a celebration of America.