Unlike many politicians, Obama doesn't just talk the talk. His first few steps as president prove that he also walks the walk. And we can all learn from him.
Just after the inauguration, I met a congressman who mentioned that from his vantage point on the platform, Obama's teleprompter was malfunctioning. I haven't seen this reported in the press but I prefer to believe it's true, that within seconds, Obama faced the first snafu of his presidency and adapted with his signature style: he delivered the speech on his own and never missed a beat.
Each of us are presented with opportunities when we can adapt to the needs of the moment. And for me, one of those chances came along right after I left the inauguration.
My nephew Aaron had gotten last-minute tickets for me and his two cousins -- and he planned our Washington visit with military precision. Everything worked. After the speech, all that remained was getting us home.
To return to college, my son Daniel was flying to Chicago. But as Obama's hometown, practically the whole city was now in Washington. A week ago when I booked the trip, there wasn't a single seat available to Chicago for two days after the inauguration. Daniel's flight -- leaving Reagan International at 6 p.m. on Inauguration Day -- would be very tight, but it was the only flight I could get.
Getting to the airport would be a challenge without normal options like taxis and shuttles. Everything in the vicinity of the Capitol was blocked off due to extreme security. So we were planning to walk to the nearest open Metro station and drop Daniel off. Even assuming he had to wait a few hours to get INTO the station, he should be able to make his flight.
After the speech, we started walking. Though we'd already spent the morning wedged in with the crowds on the Capitol lawn, we encountered a sea of humanity as we neared the Mall, where over a million people had gathered. Apparently, 99% of the million were headed to the Metro, too.
The first station was shut down tight. Not even an option to wait on line. Same story at the next station. And the next. For the entire area -- the system couldn't handle the overload and overcrowding. No entrance. No Metro. No airport.
We had already walked miles in the direction that led out of town. No one could come to our rescue because every road, highway and bridge around Washington was closed to traffic, due to the upcoming parade. We were stuck. Screwed. Seriously.
Already exhausted, I envisioned Daniel trapped for days. For one instant (that I never mentioned to the 3 guys) I mentally considered faking a heart attack and calling an ambulance. LOL.
My nephew Aaron was in Obama mode -- calmly determined to get Daniel on that flight. An hour earlier we heard Obama speak about America entering a new era of responsibility; asking us to make the sacrifices needed, to get us through hard times.
In the same spirit of self-reliance, Aaron had a solution for our snafu. When I heard it, I thought it was impossible. Also insane.
But I had no better idea. So at Aaron's direction, we kept walking. Along with a few other citizens desperate to leave the city. The bridges across the icy Potomac were closed to traffic, but not to people.
Pretty soon, the monuments and memorials of Washington were behind us.
On the Virginia side, armed soldiers guarded the exits along the highway. There were no cars or busses anywhere -- just planes, far ahead in the distance, rising into the skies after takeoff from Reagan International. We kept going.
Aaron, our leader, set a brisk pace. Daniel was wearing a 30-pound backpack, but I was the weak link in the family chain of strong, fit, 20-something men.
Despite the frigid air, I warmed up, shedding layers and losing a glove somewhere along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. I trudged ahead, thinking of how quickly I'd dismissed Aaron's strategy of self-reliance.
On the first day of his presidency, I learned that anything is possible in the era of Obama.
We walked to the airport.
Yes. We. Can.
After dropping off Daniel, we headed back to Washington on the Metro. Later we learned we'd made such good time that Daniel got on standby and took an earlier flight. He was already in Chicago by the time I got to Dulles for my own flight a few hours later.
And now I'm home in California, left with the result of this experience -- not only extremely sore thighs.
Thanks to our new president and his inauguration, I learned that we can all walk the walk -- and do things we never imagine we can do.
The real moral of this story is found in a quote sent by my brother-in-law Paul after he heard the story of our saga: "If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress."
The author of this quotation... is Barack Obama.