The inauguration of a new American era
As I prepare to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration and participate in observing the grand American tradition of a peaceful transition of power from one president to the next, I cannot help but reflect on the significance of this event. The inauguration will likely be a watershed moment for the US.
Hundreds of thousands will descend onto the nation’s capital to celebrate (and thousands of others to demonstrate). While “controversy” has been the buzzword surrounding the incoming Trump administration most often wielded by the media, one cannot escape the tremendous historical moment that the whole world will witness this Friday.
I have spent over a decade in Washington, and have seen first-hand the steadily escalating viciousness of partisanship take hold. However, I have also observed that uniquely American characteristic of optimism and getting the job done, regardless of who is in the White House at the time.
It is why public servants such as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates can prove to be so effective while working for two different presidents (first George W. Bush and then Barack Obama) with disparate policies. That same ethos also underpinned public servants such as former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. David Petraeus.
When it came time to put party affiliation aside and work together toward the common good regardless of the discordant political rhetoric in Washington, these public servants put country and service first and foremost.
America has not lost its way. Every new election cycle brings a fresh batch of outside experts questioning whether America’s time in the sun has come to an end. Every time the naysayers are proven wrong.
As a Syrian-American immigrant to the US, partaking in the inaugural traditions is a way of giving thanks for the immeasurable opportunity of citizenship in a country that prides itself on civic involvement. The peaceful transfer of power, and the domestic stability and security that transitions from one leader to the next, afford citizenry luxuries that many in the world do not enjoy.
The destruction in Syria is testimony to what happens when one man and his family put their own insatiable desire to maintain power at the expense of condemning the country and its people to ruin. The inauguration, and America’s great promise for all its citizens, crystallizes the contrast of where I and my family came from and where we are today.
That is what is so great about the US: No matter the depth of political fracture or the friction of nasty partisan rhetoric, the country and its traditions endure. It is a valuable lesson for countries worldwide to remember.
The world needs America, whether the world or America likes it or not. The whole world will be watching this inauguration, some in trepidation and others with excitement. The country will move forward, and the world will remember that it is never a good idea to bet against the US, regardless of who is in the White House.
To have a front-row seat for this next chapter of American history provides real perspective as chaos reigns elsewhere in the world. The inauguration is an opportunity for Americans to come together, and to usher a renewed compact between government and citizens. As a child of the Middle East and a naturalized US citizen, the resonance of the American inauguration — and all it stands for — rings louder and stronger than ever.
• Oubai Shahbandar is a former Department of Defense senior adviser, and currently a strategic communications consultant specializing in Middle Eastern and Gulf affairs.