As Barack Obama took the oath of office before a crowd covering the Mall, we had an opportunity to reflect on a remarkable coincidence. This country was forged through the ultimate sacrifices of as many people as were standing and watching the event in the cold, clear air of Washington D.C.
The crowd estimated at 2 million is roughly the same as the Americans who have given their lives in all American wars. Some 700,000 died in our war of brothers that created one Union and ended slavery. About 1.2 million other Americans have lost their lives in all other wars.
Just yards from where slaves were auctioned and on the steps of a building constructed with slave labor, an African-American took the oath of office in a peaceful passage of power to lead the most powerful nation on earth.
Many people, as I did, undoubtedly saw the ceremony through eyes misty with tears of joy and hope. Joyful at once again seeing the remarkable proof that, as deTocqueville wrote, "Here the people rule." Joyful at seeing the sacrifices of generations of heroes justified. Joyful at seeing a dream fulfilled not just for one race, but for all Americans. Joyful at feeling that yes, we can fulfill the promise of America.
Never have I been as proud to have served my country in its armed service. Never have I been as proud to say, "I am an American."