I arrived in Washington, D.C., on January 17th, 2009.
Three days before the inauguration of President Obama,
the city was already flooded with tourists excited to
partake in history. Although it was well past midnight,
and temperatures were below freezing, people still hung
out in the streets of Washington chanting "Obama!
Obama!" at the top of their lungs.
This was not my first time visiting the city so I was
quite shocked at this contrast in atmosphere, compared
to the Washington, D.C., I'd grown accustomed to. I
sat in the back seat of my parents' car observing everything.
I was well aware of the significance of the inauguration,
but I hoped the nation would not grow complacent after
finally electing an African-American president.
'Still work to be done'
On Sunday morning, my family and I woke early to prepare
for church. We would be attending the historic Metropolitan
A.M.E. Church in downtown Washington. This church had
definitely made a name for itself throughout history.
It served as the site for Frederick Douglass' funeral
service and former President Bill Clinton attended inaugural
prayer services here in 1993 and 1997.
There was a rumor going around that President Obama
and his family might worship there that day. Although
the Obama family did not attend, the bishop delivered
an excellent message. He expressed excitement about
having an African-American president, but gave the congregation
precise advice on how to remain humble in the coming
"Yes, we have crossed the River Jordan,"
he began, "but we must not forget where we have
come from. Also, now that we have crossed this great
river, we must remember to help those brothers and sisters
who are still struggling."
I sat in the crowd internalizing everything he said.
America had successfully elected an African-American
president, but there was still work to be done. Once
again, I hoped that other people would realize this.
That message was reinforced on Monday morning, when
I attended a symposium session on improving the education
system, held at Howard University.
My favorite speaker was Joel Klein, Chancellor of New
York City Public Schools, who argued that in order to
fix poverty we need to fix education first and that
parents need to be a part of their children's education.
The day of the inauguration, I decided to stay inside
and watch the event on television while my parents and
aunt walked down to the Capitol. Even after being in Washington
during the days that led up to the inauguration, I was
still surprised to see the immense crowd that came out
to take part in history.
As President Obama stepped forward to take the oath
I remember my heart beat speeding up with excitement
while my eyes welled with tears of joy. In that moment,
I realized the enormity of what was taking place. Barack
Obama was about to become the nation's first African-American
After the ceremony, as I was still overcome with emotion,
I immediately ran to the computer to begin writing this.
As you read my article, I do not intend to give the
impression that I am not excited about having an African-American
president. Believe me I am extremely grateful to have
taken part in some of the many inaugural events. However,
Im afraid too many African-Americans will think
that just reaching the White House is enough. If anything,
it should be motivation to follow President Obama's
example and aim for greater achievements.
At school, there is too much of a lackadaisical, nonchalant
attitude towards learning. While we sit back and take
education for granted, students across the globe are
getting that much farther ahead of us. Taking from the
words of President Obama at his inaugural address, we
must pick ourselves up." It is time for us
to stop making excuses for our shortcomings and begin
living out Dr. Kings dream.