It took only one day, one inauguration, for the shift between pessimism and optimism. Just one day to anticipate new opportunities, new possibilities. The skies opened up on the day that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris of the inauguration, and the sun of truth and light shone in.
I had a mixtape running through my brain. The Fifth Dimension, “Let The Sun Shine In”; Nina Simone, “Here Comes the Sun”; Nina Simone, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”; McFadden and Whitehead, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” You could not have wiped the grin off my face if you had a Brillo pad. The inauguration met my expectations. Biden spoke hope and reconciliation. Harris spoke history and healing. The highlight of the inauguration for me, though, was young Amanda Gorman, the Poet Laureate, at 22, the youngest poet laureate ever.
There have been many times in the last few years when I wished that Dr. Maya Angelou was alive. Sometimes it’s personal — I’d like her advice, her words, her soothing. Sometimes it’s political — I’d like to know what she thinks. But on Inauguration Day, I wanted her to see a brilliant young lady stand on her shoulders, to watch Amanda Gorman recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” It is a complex, hopeful, alliterative and aspirational poem that declared that our country “is not broken but unfinished.” What shone through her appearance was not only her bold words but also her shining presence. Nina Simone. To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
While the substance of inauguration was most important, those of us who are fashionistas had plenty of eye candy. Jill Biden’s light blue outfit. Kamala’s purple (a combination of blue and red), Michelle Obama’s bold maroon with a striking belt, and the monochromatic look that many of the women rocked. The presence of women, especially Black women, was also notable. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was part of the Presidential Inauguration Committee and opened the ceremony. Firefighter Andrea Hall spoke and signed the Pledge of Allegiance. Black girl magic was in the house. My mixtape is running through my head.
The symbolism was stunning, but it was far more critical that President Biden hit the ground running, and he did. He signed 17 executive orders, reversing some of the most onerous declarations of his predecessor. He dissolved the 1776 Commission, an odious truth-erasing propaganda body charged with developing “patriotic education.” Replete with lies, peppered with quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, neither of whom would have cosigned the report, the previous administration had the utter audacity to release this madness on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday holiday. One of the final slaps in the face from the deranged “leader.”
Hours before Biden offered his stirring and hopeful speech, the previous president, who defied precedent and declined to attend his successor’s inauguration, the former president slunk out of Washington, designing his departure with a 21 gun salute and an exit on Air Force One. It was a pitiful party, sparsely attended and suffused with gloomy moods. The former president’s deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, described the departing ceremony as “a funeral” and said, “In many ways, the country died.”
No, Hogan, the country was reborn with hope and joy, and a commitment to turn the hope and enjoyment of the inauguration into a reality.
What a difference a day makes. We have gone from a history-denying administration into a history-affirming one. We have moved from an administration that attacked workers and the environment to an administration that fights for them. To be sure, the Biden-Harris administration is walking a legislatively narrow tightrope, with a narrow margin in the House of Representatives and just a one-vote margin in the Senate.
Suppose Biden can work the bipartisan magic he promised to attempt. In that case, there will be more vaccines into arms and more relief for those whose economic status has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
These early days of the Biden-Harris administration are hopeful, inspirational days. They must also be workdays. There is much that must be done, many obstacles to clear. The previous administration did lots to cement their gains with last-minute executive orders and appointments. Many of these obstacles can be removed. The Biden-Harris team has, so far, been productive and resilient. They must continue that relentlessness moving forward. What a difference a day makes! Oh, happy day.
Malveaux is an economist and author.