The inaugural festivities of
President-elect Obama began Saturday as he departed Philadelphia in a
historic whistle-stop train ride to the White House. Speaking at a
rally in Philadelphia, Obama once again included gays and lesbians in
his vision of America.
The train ride to Washington, which
included a stop in Baltimore and another in Wilmington to pick up
Vice President-elect Joe Biden, was steeped in symbolism. Abraham
Lincoln had made the same journey nearly 150 years earlier.
People gathered by the hundreds along
the route, and Obama and his wife, Michelle, often appeared on the
back balcony of the train to wave at the crowds.
Joan Schiff, 47, a small business owner
who campaigned for Obama, turned out in Philadelphia. “At some
point, you look up and think, 'I am in a moment',” she told CBS
In Philadelphia, Obama tempered his
optimism for the future with a reflection on the past.
“We are here to mark the beginning of
our journey to Washington. This is fitting because it was here, in
this city, that our American journey began. ... We are here today not
simply to pay tribute to our first patriots but to take the work that
they began. The trials we face are very different now, but severe in
their own right. Only a handful of times in our history has a
generation been confronted with challenges so vast.”
Barack Obama has professed his
commitment to equality for gays and lesbians. But controversy over
the invitation of Rev. Rick Warren, who likened gay marriage to an
incestuous relationship and supported a gay marriage ban in
California, to give the nation's prayer at Obama's inauguration
ceremony left the gay community flatfooted and questioning the depth
of his commitment.
But at his historic Philadelphia rally,
Obama included gay Americans in his vision of the nation – again.
Political ideology, Obama said, has
poisoned our ability to conquer our problems: “[O]ur politics had
grown too small for the scale of challenges we faced.”
“But I also believe something else,”
he continued. “I believe that our future is our choice and that if
we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone
together – Democrats, Republicans and independents, north, south,
east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American, gay
and straight, disabled or not – then not only would we restore hope
and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just
maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.”
Obama has included gays in previous
speeches during his presidential campaign, and during his acceptance
speech in Chicago.