I graduated from St. Albans School in Washington D.C. in 1951 in the bottom third of my class in grades. I applied to four colleges: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth. I was accepted to all but Princeton because six other classmates had been accepted and Princeton didn't want more than six from one prep school in the freshman class, I suspect.
My two best friends in that 1951 graduating class and I decided to go to Dartmouth, where I managed to party myself out of in a year and a half. Today I'm staying in the large, lovely apartment on Connecticut Avenue NW of one of those friends, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author, Nick Kotz.
Yesterday I took the Metro down to the Foggy Bottom stop, got off and walked with the crowd to the Lincoln Memorial concert on the mall. The crowd was joyful - not a frown to be seen on diverse faces of every imaginable skin color, hair color, ethnic background and age. There were mostly families and couples and the happiest were black.
Every six feet, or so it seemed, there were hawkers of all color, ages, and gender selling T-shirts, buttons, hats, trinkets, and all sorts of Obama memorabilia; and they provided the comedy - "two buttons for five dollars - ten on Tuesday!" Brahmins from Boston with Red Sox caps, rednecks from West Virginia wearing university sweat shirts, Indian students from India, college girls from University of Colorado in ski clothes, they were all cheery and thrilled to be there.
I walked by the Federal Reserve building and had a bus driver take my picture in front of it. I told him I wanted my picture there so I could say I was watching to see that no more money was leaking out.
It also thrilled me to see the diversity and the absence of privilege. It was a different world than 1951 when there were no black boys at St. Albans and all you had to do to get into the Ivy League was to be white, graduate from a good prep school, and be a certified member of the privileged or semi-privileged class - it helped to be a WASP, too, or to be really smart if you weren't. Thankfully, I was a WASP.
In 1951 privilege was in; in 2009, privilege is out, especially at this Inauguration. Today I watched Barack Obama on TV painting walls during the National Day of Service he was instrumental in creating. I can't imagine George Bush, Dick Cheney, John Kerry, or Al Gore painting walls in a school during a Day of Service.
But Obama has changed things; he has already changed Washington. He's eliminating privilege. I don't miss it. I don't miss the old days of privilege in 1951. Today I realized that one of the reasons I supported Obama and why I'm thrilled to be in Washington today for the Inauguration is that my guilt is finally being expiated. I knew I didn't really deserve the privileges I had growing up. I was just lucky. But now I don't feel guilty any more. Barack Obama is being Inaugurated the 44th President tomorrow and I'll be there weeping like a baby, like I wept when he won the election.