Smarter Better Faster Stronger

Unlike Cara, I don’t watch Lost, so I’m dragging you all back to the inauguration festivities: specifically, the Neighborhood Ball, which was intended to be the “people’s ball” for locals, the Obamas’ new neighbors. It was the new First Couple’s first stop on their tour of ten (!) balls where they danced and spoke, and it was also the event where Beyoncé Knowles sang Etta James’ classic, “At Last.”

Aww Beyonce! She teared up during the song and smudged her eyeliner. And then she gave this interview:

“It’s probably the most important day of my life, and I’m so grateful… he makes me want to be smarter, he makes me want to be more involved.”

So here’s how I’ve been feeling about the inauguration. I usually treat idealistic, buoyant optimism like I’m handling a dirty rag that I’ve just used to mop up cat pee, but at this point I’m getting a little infected. Much has been said about Obamamania, whether people are getting too emotional or too starry-eyed; even the president himself keeps warning everyone how hard it’s going to be, starting today. I spent yesterday afternoon in a sort of nervous panic about how it’s all going to be so disappointing before long, and everyone’s going to start yelling at each other again, and, and, and.

But I’m reminded that there’s one thing that leaders should clearly do, no matter the situation: inspire the people they lead and make them want to be better. We haven’t had that for a long time. It chokes me up.

And yes, of course this is still Feministe*, so we should still mention that Beyonce still already did had previously written this song (ruefully mentioned in an earlier post by our resident Beyonce fanatic) about how you have to buy lady love with a sparkly rock. Look — I don’t know how she wants to get involved. But I’d be happy if it’s anything positive, and I’m happy that people are moved to a spirit of service.

I’m also happy that Obama has suspended prosecutions of Guantanamo detainees, possibly a precursor to shutting the place down. Today is supposed to be a big day for executive orders, so stay tuned.

* where the “E” at the end still stands for “Everything Else that is tangentially related to feminism at best”


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19 comments for “Smarter Better Faster Stronger

  1. January 21, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    The dance was so cute. And I’m really eagerly anticipating all of the executive orders that come through today. Better make it good, Obama!

  2. January 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Much has been said about Obamamania, whether people are getting too emotional or too starry-eyed; even the president himself keeps warning everyone how hard it’s going to be, starting today.

    The Obamamania is very real, but I heard and read just as many comments made yesterday about it being Bush’s last day as it being Obama’s first. I think the excitement would have been palpable, albeit to a lesser degree, had any Democrat been elected for the sheer fact that he/she isn’t Bush.

    Obama has a hard slog ahead of him, but the fact that one of the first order of business was to suspend Gitmo prosecutions simply reinforces why I voted for him. I haven’t felt this inspired by a national leader since Hubert Humphrey — and he died before I was even born.

  3. January 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    The choice of At Last by Etta James was the perfect song for the Obamas. As I watched them dance, I could not help but to be warmed by the love that they so obviously shared. The connection was strong and true and I think that we all needed to be reminded of the beauty of love, at time when we have invested so much of our energies into hatred.

  4. Ron O.
    January 21, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I like watching them dance last night because they look so sweet and affectionate together. Neither one of them is terribly good at it though IMO. The president does not have rhythm.

  5. Ex-Republican
    January 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I voted for Obama, but can’t stand the Obamamania. It reminds me of Scientology or some other cult. Again, he is a politician people. Politicians “create” nothing. People should worry more bout making a difference for their own families or local communities than the national executive.

  6. January 21, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Today he issued a draft order to close down the facility in one year.

    I usually treat idealistic, buoyant optimism like I’m handling a dirty rag that I’ve just used to mop up cat pee, but at this point I’m getting a little infected.

    Tell me about it. Camelot is back, baby!

  7. Tom
    January 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    “He makes me want to be smarter.” I feel that way too. Beyonce really put her finger on what is for me the heart of Obama’s appeal.

  8. Lisa
    January 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    blub

  9. January 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I really hope the sentiment, “he makes me want to be smarter” is something that people all over the USA are feeling – and resolving to work towards achieving, too. Over the past 10 years or so, I heard so much about the “culture of dumb” that infects not just the USA, but my home, the UK, as well; wouldn’t it be great in Obama’s presidency could be the one to overcome that and create a culture of bright? He hinted at that with the remark of putting science back where it belongs.

    I remember reading that Scott Joplin’s ragtime opera, “Treemonisha” was all about how learning and education are the route to emancipation, that was written about 100 years ago; It would be wonderful if that truth could be reawakened!

    It is quite clear that President Obama can’t dance, but in a way that just makes him seem more human and more in touch with the world – because he clearly isn’t perfect! But he and Michelle looked so beautiful together, they are both attractive, intelligent, and appear to be good- and strong-hearted. They will need all those qualities, I suspect, in the years to come.

  10. Kristen (The J one)
    January 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    The choice of At Last by Etta James was the perfect song for the Obamas. As I watched them dance, I could not help but to be warmed by the love that they so obviously shared.

    Ditto. When we were watching on MSNBC (I think) my husband walked over to the TV with fake outrage (and a cooking implement in his hand) and said “How DARE they try to steal our song”. He then proceeded to dance with me around the living room (cooking implement still in hand) until he remember he had to turn the fish.

    Its nice to think that our President might love, RESPECT, and be considerate of his life partner.

  11. Tara
    January 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    “And yes, of course this is still Feministe*, so we should still mention that Beyonce still already did had previously written this song (ruefully mentioned in an earlier post by our resident Beyonce fanatic) about how you have to buy lady love with a sparkly rock.”

    I think the song talks about a ring in more of a metaphorical “If he really liked me then he would be a bit more serious about it” sense. I’m not saying that Beyonce is queen of the feminists, I’m just giving my 2 cents about the song.
    As for the first dance by the Obamas, I found it to be really sweet. It’s so rare to see blatant romance like that these days.

  12. Anne
    January 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Really ruins one of my favorite songs.

  13. Kristin
    January 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Yeah, I held it together through the ceremony, mostly just felt a huge sense of relief (at Bush being gone) throughout the day, and then I cried with Beyonce last night.

  14. January 22, 2009 at 12:02 am

    I bawled my eyes out when they danced. And I bawled again when I saw Beyonce’s interview. I think I got a little jaded being in New York, because this weekend in DC was pretty invigorating and inspiring. When I was walking to the inaug, there was a group of people with a sign listing all the countries they came from. I don’t remember the whole list, but it included Togo and Cameroon. That’s pretty damned incredible.

    Obama isn’t a perfect man and he’s not going to be a perfect president. But he has inspiring so many people, and, to use a cliched idea, instilled a tangible sense of hope. I’m as cynical as they come, but seeing the reaction of people in DC was a nice attitude check.

  15. Kristin
    January 22, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Jill–I hope you’re gonna post about DC.

  16. staceeee
    January 22, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    omg. i wish i got to go to the neighborhood ball!
    its hard to not get choked up when you hear older black ladies remembering their days in segregation.

  17. January 22, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Coming soon, Kristin!

  18. Manju
    January 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Yeah, “At Last” was perfect for the double meaning: the romance that is the Obamas and of course at last, the first…

  19. Alison
    January 23, 2009 at 1:57 am

    I’ve watched the first video probably five or six times and I tear up every time. It’s so beautiful and sweet, and such a great moment. Beyonce’s interview was also great – she’s so overcome and obviously humbled, and so happy. It’s nice to see that happiness around…

    @Anne – Really? Happiness and love and optimism and beauty “ruined” the song for you? That’s pretty sad…but hey, thanks for sharing!

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