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January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day: Disappointments and Hopes

By Albert Kaufman

Why I was disappointed on Inauguration day.


In January 2005, after seeing George Bush at the inaugural balls, I wrote the following:
Dance President Bush -
Dance while coalition soldiers and Iraqi innocents are killed and maimed;
Dance while the wounded writhe with pain;
Dance for those who will never dance again.

In November 2008, I drafted a letter to President-Elect Obama asking him to have the nation  forego all inaugural-day balls and other celebrations in consideration of all those who have so little, if anything, to rejoice about in these troubled times.  I sent a draft to friends and family, most of whom considered me a party pooper, wet blanket, stick-in-the-mud, etc,--considering how many people were looking forward to celebrate this special inauguration. Although, I felt that there had been enough rejoicing on November 4th, I toned down the letter to the following, emailed it to the transition team and faxed it to three of  Senator Biden's and two of Congressman Emanuel's offices in the hope that it would get through to Obama:

Dear President Elect Obama,

In January 2005, I was sick at heart seeing video images of President Bush dancing and making merry at the inaugural festivities. I realized that because of the unjustified war his administration had started in Iraq, multitudes were writhing in pain and sorrow while he was dancing: multitudes of wounded military personnel and innocent civilians, their families and the families of those who had been killed. Not only those killed and wounded in Iraq, but in Afghanistan also; as you so rightly pointed out, if we had not diverted our human and fiscal resources to Iraq, we might long ago have eliminated al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and achieved stability there.

I am writing because I believe that it would send a tremendously significant and compassionate message to the world if your actions on inauguration day were to stand in stark contrast to those of President Bush in January 2005. I'm not certain how this could be done, but perhaps in your inaugural address you might indicate that, although there is certainly much cause for rejoicing on this historic day, no matter how joyful YOU may appear at the festivities later, you will always be thinking of those who cannot rejoice. I would also recommend a visit to the wounded in Walter Reade Hospital sometime during the day.


Although I was pleased to hear Obama express, in some pre-inaugural interviews, his mixed feelings about rejoicing during the inauguration, I was disappointed that these were not expressed in any of his speeches yesterday when many more people would have heard. I was also pleased that he visited Walter Reade Hospital, but this was done on Monday and received very little attention in the media – even the New York Times had only one line about it. I would have preferred it to have been  done yesterday as a first act as Commander-in-Chief, and when there was more public awareness. Certainly, it would have been tactless for it to have been a photo-op, but just having it on the inauguration-day schedule would have made the public more aware of his concern for those who sacrificed so valiantly.

As for future inaugurations, I hope along with so many that there will be no religious aspects to the ceremonies in keeping with separation of church and state. And wouldn't it be fun, if fitting, to have a stand-up comedian make a presentation?

Authors Bio:
I was born in 1938 in Woodside, Queens, New York City and graduated from PS12, Stuyvesant HS, Cooper Union (B. Elec. Engg), Drexel (M.S. Biomed. Engg), and Temple (Ph.D. Med. Physiology)
I am an Emeritus Assoc. Prof. of Physiology at SUNY Downstate Med. Ctr., Brooklyn, NY and retired from there in 1999 after 33 years.
I have been married since 1962 to a very talented artist and fellow Cooper grad. We have a son, daughter, 2 grandsons and 2 cats
I love melodic music – classical, pop and opera – and could listen to "Le Nozze di Figaro" every day. I write lyrics for music my daughter writes – nothing published yet.
I go bowling once a week, and play tennis, golf and go ice skating when my joints allow.
I am an agnostic: I don't understand why there is matter, or where the universe begins and ends, so I think there is a possibility that a supreme being once existed and/or still exists.