At 4 a.m. on Monday morning, in the dark parking lot of RFK Stadium, four buses full of Yalies awoke to make the trek downtown for the second inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Between the long Metro lines and security measures, I anticipated an arduous trip to the National Mall. Even once we arrived, we waited hours in the cold for the festivities to begin.
To our left, a rainbow flag flew high. To our right, a huddled group of college students played Trivia. As I looked around at the crowds that had ventured from afar to support the president, what struck me the most was the symbolism of the diverse group of Yalies that had journeyed to D.C. The contingent of students I traveled with was sponsored by the Intercultural Affairs Council (IAC), which seeks to promote campus dialogue between students of all cultures and backgrounds. Given the diversity of that IAC-sponsored group, which integrated students from various parts of campus, watching my peers’ reactions to Obama’s various policy prescriptions was a study in the evolving nature of our society and a reminder of how very different people — permanent residents, international students, guest workers, undocumented immigrants and refugees — can have vested stakes in the same laws and traditions.
Obama’s call to remember the principles behind the Founding Fathers’ concept of “We the People” must extend to those who hold some rights in this country and are subject to its laws, and to those abroad who fall within our nation’s sphere of influence. “We the People” entreats us to consider the common man, in the global sense, in addition to the common American. Speaking about climate change, the president enjoined us to work towards greener lifestyles for the sake of posterity. That posterity extends beyond our borders to the broader global community.
Following the principles of engagement and diplomacy laid out in the inaugural address, the idea of camaraderie and cooperation for the sake of progress must shape our perception of security issues. The cultivation of friends at home and abroad will afford us a more stable position worldwide. As one of the largest and most powerful nations in the world, and one with a large immigrant population, America must recognize that its domestic policy and its foreign policy remain intertwined, because positions at home — on everything from the federal budget to immigration — have large repercussions abroad. Obama’s entreaty to recall community should propel us towards exogenous, rather than endogenous, action.
So, as I stood on the National Mall, surrounded by Yalies of every color and creed and of varying nationalities, I was reminded that, despite their origins, they are my sisters and brothers. And their hopes and their dreams are tied to how this country chooses to frame and promote its dream of world order.