Obama delivers manna for the masses - and small gatherings

Talking Politics
By IAN DONNIS  |  January 22, 2009

091023_inaug_main
NEW DAY: Young Americans exult at Brown University.

Although the inauguration day spread at the Scituate home of longtime liberal political activist Kate Coyne-McCoy on Tuesday included an array of frittatas, grilled sausages, roast potatoes, and Champagne, the main sustenance for a like-minded group of about dozen guests was the political manna represented by the swearing-in of Barack Obama.

Last summer, Coyne-McCoy, the Northeast regional director for EMILY's List, which focuses on aiding female candidates, hosted a Democratic presidential straw poll in which Hillary Clinton emerged triumphant. The result was unsurprising, since Clinton was widely assumed to have a lock on the Democratic nomination.

Coyne-McCoy's personal preference at the time was John Edwards, and when he dropped out, she backed Obama — because, she says, he most embodied the prospect of real change.

On the verge of joyful tears after Obama's swearing-in, Coyne-McCoy called it her happiest moment since the birth of her children. Her guests were similarly ebullient, reacting with applause and whoops to the new president's speech and the spirited benediction by Joseph Lowery, who had founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.

(The invocation by evangelist Rick Warren, on the other hand, had been greeted warily, with some of those in attendance wisecracking, "except [for] the gays," when the pastor talked of extending love and good feeling through the land.)

Obama echoed Ronald Reagan with his forecast of better days, and his homage to bygone veterans, whispering through the years, was reminiscent of the gifted speechwriter Peggy Noonan. Overall, though, he firmly owned that speech, signaling an appreciation of American history, as well as the dawn of a new era.

Last summer, Coyne-McCoy says, "I was convinced there was no way we [Democrats] couldn't win." Such a belief was widespread at the time due to dissatisfaction with the presidency of George W. Bush. But like any number of people, even Coyne-McCoy believed at the time that America was not ready to elect an African-American president.

The 2000 Congressional candidate found it hard to put into words her joy about the ultimate tangible reality of her being proved wrong. "I can not describe how I've felt for days," she said, as she pulled a pan of roasted potatoes from her oven. Not only does Obama represent a polar opposite to his predecessor, she said, "he's an African-American with an African-American family," signifying the possibility of change in America. "It really, to me, is a big deal."

Coyne-McCoy, who had attended one of Bill Clinton's inaugurals, had tickets for this week's event, but she gave them away. Instead of being amidst the tens of thousands of other Americans personally welcoming a new president on a cold January day, she watched with wonder as he spoke on a television in her living room.

Related: Has Obama peaked? No, he hasn't, Party like it's 1999, Inauguration Day Round-up, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Barack Obama, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Politics,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY IAN DONNIS
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   RHODY'S LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT FINDS ITS GROOVE  |  February 23, 2009
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
  •   ADVOCATES RENEW PUSH FOR PUBLICLY-FINANCED RI ELECTIONS  |  February 04, 2009
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
  •   BROGAN TAKES ON TEENS, SOCIAL NETWORKING IN TEASER  |  January 28, 2009
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS