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Refreshing Tears: Uncontrolled and Welcomed at the Obama Inauguration

Jan 29, 2013 | Updated Feb 02, 2016

I feel the constant tears today, freezing on my face but not resisting at all. I even cried (embarrassed) when I interviewed the young woman from New Jersey who has applied for entry to Yale. I just can't help it today.

The last two years have been tough ones for me -- and for the country. Despite the hopes that brought President Obama to the White House in 2008, he disappointed in part. His words that he "was the change" cut me to the heart because I knew what a mistake that was -- We were the change and I despaired that he'd forgotten that. His first term was both spectacular -- and weak in some areas. But the promise of this presidency remained.

I gave his first campaign every ounce of energy -- and dime -- that I had. If I only had one chance in life to give something my all, this was going to be it. I reminded myself I was going to be on the right side of history when I slipped and fell down on the icy pavements going door to door in Milwaukee, when I battled being thrown out of a polling station in Houston, and when I was crushed by our loss in New Hampshire to the great Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary.

Barack Obama's second inauguration today cements the change we worked for in America and the world. If I ever doubted for a moment that his first victory was fluke, a passing moment, to be trumped by the birthers, the Trumps, and a move to the Romneyian universe, I cry with relief. His 2012 victory -- again -- over a backward leaning view tells us that the change and the Obama promise is real -- and most American's agree. Obama is the first Democrat since FDR to win the majority of popular vote, and more tears come.

Today the president did again more about what no American president has ever done before. He arrived in a limo bearing DC license plates that read 'Taxation Without Representation.' He invocation was done by the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers. His inaugural poet was a Cuban born gay man. And the president mentioned explicitly the rights of gay Americans declaring America's "journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." No euphemism -- he said "gay Americans" -- gay. In his inauguration speech.

This is no small thing -- even in gay circles I remember their concerns about Barack Obama's views on LGBT rights. And I remember the bizarre gay Republicans argue for their choice(s). Today we all see the fruits of the collective "we" and the promise of what more we can do to make us all fully equal.

This is more of the equality that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for -- and the president embraced the symbolism that today's inauguration fell on King's national holiday. When President Obama put his hand on two Bibles: One from President Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery, and the other from King who was assassinated for believing in racial and economic justice, I cried again.

Obama has re-started, with our help, a march into a previously unimagined and unimaginable future. When I skydived on New Year's Eve last month in Hawaii I was re-starting my life -- and living a promise I made to someone I loved who died. I shed different tears then. Today's tears are for a future -- and builds on the tears I shed when I first heard these words: Everything will be alright in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end. So I encourage you, men and women, boys and girls, embrace these tears -- they nourish the soul, cleanse the past, and water the future.