I learned over the Thanksgiving Break, while 3 of my kids and their friends were home from college, that one of my son's friends would be marching in President Barack Hussein Obama's (I enjoy typing that!) Inauguration.
You might think that's quite an honor, good for him, and "I hope he gets lots of pictures," but it represents something far more significant, and should encourage us all as to just how much things have changed in the 146 years since the Emancipation Proclamation.
Because my son's friend goes to Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington, VA, and the entire corps of 1400 will be marching.
If you don't know about VMI, the following might help you understand the tradition and significance of this:
- VMI is the oldest state military college in the US (1839), and is known as the "West Point of the South."
- The entire Corps of VMI students fought at the Battle of New Market, for the Confederacy, and for this reason they are the only military school in the US permitted to fix bayonets in parade formation.
- VMI didn't admit African-Americans until 1968; and women weren't admitted until 1997.
This is amazing!
A school in the Commonwealth that hosted the capital of the Confederacy; that trained racist sons of the South for generations; whose students fought on the wrong side in a war to keep African-Americans enslaved; that refused to admit African-Americans long after the Federal Military Academies had done so; will be marching, en masse, in the Inaugural Parade of an African American President.
And the mood of the cadets? My son's friend says they are "thrilled, as a whole lot of us voted for President Obama."
Morning in America? A New Day? The end of racist America?
But a wonderful start, and a richly symbolic one at that.
In the words of The Staple Singers, "Take the sheet off your face, boy/it's a brand new day!"
Update: From my son's friend: "This article explains that this will be the 13th Inaugural, and 100th anniversary of this tradition, for the cadets of VMI, and we have been very busily preparing for the event since returning to barracks on the 10th January.
All 1400 of us board 60+ buses @0400 on Tuesday to head for Washington, and I can't wait!"