by James M. Wall
After Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States, he delivered a stirring inaugural address that called on Americans to join with him in addressing the problems facing the nation.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily nor in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.
His inaugural address was what we have come to expect from the new president, a mixture of realism and inspiration, laced with historical references.
Obama’s speech was followed by a benediction from 87-year-old Joseph Lowery, from Atlanta, Georgia, whose opening words must have sounded familiar to the millions of African Americans in the crowd and around the nation.
Lowery’s prayer began with the third verse of James Weldon Johnson’s hymn, Lift Every Voice and Sing, which, since it was written in 1920, has emerged as the “national anthem” of the African American community.
Dr. Lowery was a close friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. They worked together in the early days of the civil rights movement.
Lowery’s presence at the inaugural connected two historic moments in American history, the civil rights movement and the inauguration of our first African American president. (To hear the words and music of the entire hymn, click here). For another version of the hymn, click here.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far along the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.