America...you've got to love her. After watching the Inauguration this past Monday I couldn't help but note how very different America looks today than 30 years ago. I can't remember watching an Inauguration when I was a kid but I do remember the Presidential addresses on the television, interrupting the Cosby Show.
Back then it was Ronald Regan and perhaps it was because I was so young or perhaps it was because he was so different from me but there was a disconnect between us, a feeling that my government and my country existed far away in a distant land of opportunity that existed only for white people but was make believe for me.
There weren't Hispanic role models in positions of authority that lent themselves to hitching my wagon to their stars. Thankfully, I had a mother who tried her best to teach me about hard work and opportunity and despite the fact that she knew there was little out there for a quiet, skinny, Mexican girl, she clung to hope and taught me to hope as well. As it turns out, I did pretty well for myself. I survived and thrived and became an educated young woman, a productive member of society.
But on Monday, watching us swear in a black president for a second term and watching a colorful and diverse group of supreme court justices, senators and the like, I couldn't help but feel so proud of my America. It's a great thing that my children are growing up in a country that is growing and they can look around and see people like them, people like poet Richard Blanco, a Cuban man who added a little Hispanic flair to his poetic reading while he took us on a tour through our country in a matter of a few minutes.
If Blanco had spoken when I was a child I would have been glued to the television, trying desperately to see every inch of his face and trying to figure out how I could be more like him. Today, through the internet and social media, we are more connected in real time and my kids not only have a sense of connection through the people they see, they have a deeper understanding, a hope for potential that I never had.
Sure, our country is not perfect. We could talk for hours about how we don't agree on a plethora of issues and how we could do a better job at a lot of things but the truth is, we often forget how young our country is compared to others. In many ways, we are still maturing, still stumbling through those tough growing years with acne, gangly arms and questionable taste in music.
We are that teenager that drives us completely insane with their stubbornness and self-proclaimed superiority. But every once in a while, that teenager surprises us. She comes home with an accomplishment so remarkable that we can't help but beam with pride.
This is our America, still full of promise despite her missteps.
Maybe I'm still basking in promise of the new year. Or perhaps there is a sense of a new beginning, punctuated by an adamant "so help me God" but I can't help but feel a sense of promise and anticipation for what lies ahead, not only in the next four years but in the next few decades.
Sure, we are going to stumble from time to time and those times will be embarrassing and hard and humbling but without a doubt, we will get up again and if we're smart, we'll learn from our lessons and make better choices next time.
I'm excited to see what the future brings. Hopefully there is more wisdom, more growth. Only 60 years ago, our country was segregated, there was little in the way of women's rights and we were light years away from where we are today. May we continue to advance, striving forward with combined energy, common sense and hope, to an even better America.