| It was an incredibly cold morning in Washington, D.C., as I stood with two million of my fellow Americans to watch history unfold.
We had gathered in front of the Capitol steps and on the National Mall to see Barack Obama take the oath of office as 44th President of the United States. We stood elbow to elbow for two miles, as far as the eye could see.
In spite of the freezing
temperatures and the enormous size of the crowd, people were happy and neighborly. There was not a single injury, not a single arrest.
There were tears, of course. They streamed down the faces of people of all races and all ages. Many of advanced age who struggled on walkers to be there for history. For here at last we’d come to Martin Luther King’s mountaintop, where a nation has judged a man by the content of his character instead of the color of his skin.
America has done well in choosing Barack Obama as its leader in these perilous times. He is a true leader because he possesses the purest quality of leadership: an ability to make other people want to be better.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: Twenty-four hours before taking the oath, Obama observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day by painting an entire wall in a shelter for homeless and disconnected youth.
Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Joe Biden worked with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for families in need.
At the same time, Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Ashley Biden were at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, helping to make more than 85,000 care packages for American servicemen and women stationed around the globe.
International Vice President
Following the morning’s activities, Barack Obama thanked the volunteers for their dedication to service and called on all Americans to commit to serving others in their communities throughout the year.
As I watched coverage of this event, I was amazed. This was how Obama chose to spend his day beforebecoming President of the United States!
He could have been rehearsing his inaugural speech or meeting with leaders of Congress, but here he was in paint-spattered blue jeans, helping provide a safe and comfortable refuge for troubled kids. He finished painting the wall and then imparted words of motivation, discipline and, of course, hope to the teenagers in his presence.
This is the best kind of leadership: leadership by example!
| Obama demonstrated leadership again as he spoke on the Capitol steps, where he acknowledged thechallenges of the present andexplained how Americans must rise to address them.
“Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began,” he said. “Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year.
“Our capacity remains undiminished… Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselvesoff, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
Obama went on to salute the working heroes who made our country great — “the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated,but more often men and women obscure in their labor… “For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled theWest, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.”
As a Union leader, I am grateful whenever working people are celebrated. Obama’s speech makes me more than grateful — it gives me hope that America’s laws and policies will address the longneglected needs of folks who earn their paychecks.
I also felt inspired by the words of Joe Biden, one of Labor’s great heroes in the United States Senate, when he spoke about the working people who built the great buildings and monuments of the nation’s capital. I thought about how good it is for America to have leaders who can give our most productive citizens the respect they deserve.
I return from Washington with a sense of optimism for our country’s future.
Our Union backbone is our commitment to the concept of strength through unity, and now we have a president who has declared our mantra as his national policy.
Solidarity forever — it is the Union which makes us strong.