I woke up today to a brand new America. An America where any individual can live their wildest dreams and where our collective action can make a difference. I was fortunate to be at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. yesterday as our new President Barack Obama was sworn in. The subsequent Inaugural speech he delivered was so right for the moment. It was as if our incredible crowd of a million people were being forgiven for living mediocre lives for so long, and were now being given permission to be our naturally wonderful selves again.
Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to fly.
What President Obama has given many of us, I think, is a new sense of responsibility—to our country and to ourselves. Poet Maya Angelou has said that we all must take responsibility for the space we occupy. Shirley Chisholm put it a slightly different way when she declared that service is the rent we pay to be on this Earth. However you want to spin it, millions of Americans all over the country today are inspired to do something better with their lives. Pop diva Beyonce was beside herself with emotion last night as she sang “At Last” to the new President and First Lady, saying that Obama makes her want to be smarter, to get more involved. The voice of the next generation, in particular, knows now what we must do.
It is time for us to begin turning back the dial.
John St. Augustine knows a little something about the span of a life. He gave a talk last year about “living the uncommon life” and how urgent it is for us to make deliberate choices with our time here on Earth. If, on average, we will only live to age 77 or so, what will you do in those short years during the remaining timeline of your life?
Most of us already know what we must do. What we have always longed for in our heart of hearts, in our wildest of dreams. My Life List has even compiled 90 of the most sought-after human goals. What has happened is that we have tuned out for so long, keeping ourselves busy with everything else on our to-do lists. We have lost the signal.
I believe Barack Obama, in his inaugural speech yesterday, did not just lay the groundwork for a new attitude in America. He also called us as individuals to be responsible for the space we occupy. He called us to turn back the dial and reclaim that signal of hope, that radio station on the inside that compels us to live well and do good.
Deep inside of each of us, there is a glimmer of wanting light that wants to do something real and true. On a clear day like yesterday at the Capitol, you could see it on the faces of a million people shivering in the winter air, wearing nothing but hope on their faces.
We have been forgiven for so many years of waiting until we get our ducks in a row before we do what we want to do in our lives. We have been given permission to fly as far as we want to go. We have all been inspired to turn back the dial and become better Americans in the process.
Listen for what it is that you are called to do. And when you hear it, don’t wait. Do it now.
Rosetta Thurman is an emerging nonprofit leader of color working and living in the Washington, D.C. area. She holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and blogs about nonprofit leadership and management issues at Perspectives From the Pipeline.