And in that bright transcendent morning, the once unthinkable was, suddenly and inevitably, done. Who could resist the embracing magic of that moment?
The poet Elizabeth Alexander invoked the common people “repairing the things in need of repair.” In a bleeding world marked by so much unnecessary pain, a world so precariously out of balance, we must find ways to come together in vast missions of repair. “A teacher says, ‘Take out your pencils. Begin.”’
And so it begins.
Years from now the magic will survive or not—and that judgment will rest largely on questions of war and poverty. Martin Luther King Jr’s conscious and courageous connection of racial justice to economic justice and peace is a legacy to embrace in “the fierce urgency of now.” Will this moment be ruined in the furnaces of war, or can we hammer swords into plowshares and become a nation among nations? Can we learn to really live by the principle that anyone’s suffering diminishes us all?
The president’s speech looked in both directions: a return to past glory, a new awakening of peace and justice. A page is turned, and it’s now up to us write the next chapter.