Waiting to Exhale

Exhale. It was the most common word I saw on social media on January 20, 2021.

I spent much of the day watching the Presidential Inauguration. I’d never had the ability or wanting to. 

This day was different. I soaked in the words of the speakers, poets and vocalists at the social-distanced ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. I learned some inaugural traditions (what does it mean to “inspect the troops?”) and cheered the reuniting one of my 1990s favorites The New Radicals (“You Only Get What You Give”) for the virtual Inaugural Parade. The Presidential Inauguration Celebration was fun and much more inclusive than Inaugural Balls.

It was a long but inspiring day. Here were my favorite 10 things:

THE FACT THAT A LIVE WASHINGTON DC INAUGURATION ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  On January 19, I watched a Bill Maher interview with Katie Couric and Matt Jones where Bill questioned if we should even move forward with the in-person event (episode). Given COVID and the increased security requirements for an outdoor event, I’d been asking the question myself.  Katie stressed that despite the heightened logistics and cost, the symbolism of an in-person inauguration was important. Watching it on TV, I realize she was right.

THE ART OF THE GATHERING. I’m a huge fan of Priya Parker’s “The Art of Gathering” (It Always Starts With Why) and can’t help applying the idea to every event. The point of the 2021 Presidential Inauguration was clear—to remind America and the world what a peaceful transition of power looks like. Unity and governing for all were President Biden’s key messages. Every detail was purposeful. Every person, sentence and performance reiterated this message. To the event planners, I say nicely done.

FASHION CAN MATTER. Fashion is not my thing. But having learned of the significance of Hillary Clinton’s symbolic white and purple colors during 2016, I took notice of the shades of purple and blue worn by female leaders  (Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris) symbolizing unity and Jennifer Lopez’s brilliant white symbolizing women’s suffrage.

WORDS MATTER. When the Capitol crowd was assembling for the Presidential Inauguration, I noticed a young black woman in a striking long yellow coat. “Who is she?” I wondered. A cameraman captured her taking selfies as VIPs entered the Capitol seating area. When she stepped up to the podium as the National Youth Poet Laureate and read her original poem authored after the January 6th insurrection, I (along with most of America) swooned.

AN INAUGURAL SPEECH. President Biden’s inaugural speech (transcript) has been praised by some as one of the best since President Kennedy, and I agree. Here’s a favorite part: “On this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.” He made clear that he’s not our savior. He’s not claiming he alone will unite and heal us. Instead, uniting is the challenge he put on all of us.

A WOMAN NAMED KAMALA. The woman known around the world by her first name has taken a new one—Madame Vice President. The visual was important to me; more importantly, it’s important for boys and girls of all colors. When you see a woman of color sworn into national office for the first time, you truly believe. You can’t be what you can’t see. We can say this a million times, but seeing it is everything.

HOPE AND UNITY. Just the other day, I wrote an email to a friend where I described feeling sad and fearful. I was aghast by the Capitol insurrection and that there could be anything but a unified Congressional response. I couldn’t imagine what might be next. On Inauguration Day, I exhaled. The President and Vice President have an uphill challenge ahead, but I feel a hopefulness I haven’t felt in a while.

LOWER SHOULDERS. My hunch is that all of us are holding more stress from the last four years than we realize. We’ll recognize this over the upcoming weeks and months. I tend to hold stress in my shoulders. I literally felt them lower listening to the calm determination in President Biden’s inaugural address. May you also feel this exhale of stress in whatever way you feel it.

THE QUIET. What lowered the tension in the air? There aren’t drama-filled tweets for the media and each of us to react to. It’s a glimpse of what I hope the future looks like.

PARTY LIKE IT’S 2021. Since I don’t expect to ever get invited to an Inaugural Ball, I loved being part of the virtual inaugural “Celebrating America.” Hearing wisdom casually shared by three ex-Presidents was cool. So was hearing a message of “Undivided” sung by Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard. I hope we carry forward this new tradition.

I went to bed having shared a special meal and bottle of wine. Now we awake to great challenges—COVID-19 containment, economic hardship, and widening inequality.

Uniting is the challenge not just for President Biden, but for each of us—Republican, Democrat or party independent.

Are you up for it?


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Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!