As Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration as president of the US‚ Republicans have hope in their hearts that his hands will massage all of America’s problems away.
For everyone else‚ facing a four-year sequel to the collective nightmare in which he was elected‚ the only survival kit is a bag of memories: a reminder of some timeless inauguration milestones that spoke of freedom and equality:
1. Nelson Mandela: Madiba’s entire inauguration on May 10‚ 1994 was a cataclysmic moment not only in South African but in global history. One of the most oppressive regimes in the history of the modern world had fallen‚ and the country’s first democratically elected leader was sworn in. “Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long‚ must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud‚” said Mandela.
2. Abraham Lincoln: When Lincoln’s second term as president of the USA began in 1865‚ the country was at the tail end of one of the most brutal civil wars in history. At the heart of the war had been the issue of slavery‚ and Lincoln’s stirring words on this‚ which drew on biblical texts‚ were etched into history. He said the war would continue “until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk‚ and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”.
3. Patrice Lumumba: In June 1960‚ Congo finally cast off the shackles of Belgian brutal and violent rule. At the celebration of independence‚ the Belgian king made a speech in which he sang the virtues of Belgium’s treatment of the Congolese. In turn‚ the new Congolese president thanked him. But then‚ prime minister Patrice Lumumba made his famous impromptu speech: “We are proud of this struggle‚ of tears‚ of fire‚ and of blood … to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.” Thus began a rift that would later see him killed by firing squad.
4. Franklin D Roosevelt: When he took office in 1933‚ Roosevelt was handed an America in tatters from the Great Depression which had resulted in at least one quarter of Americans being unemployed. He soon ushered in an era of economic stability and relief. His words at his inauguration foreshadowed this approach and instantly became a classic quote: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
2. Barack Obama: One of Obama’s most poignant moments came at his second inauguration in 2013 when his humanity shone through as brightly as ever. He had just told America to continue on its “never-ending journey” of living up to the ideals of its founders‚ and as he walked off the platform‚ he looked back towards the crowd and said to those around him‚ “I’m not going to see this again.”