Last week, standing at the foot of the Nation's Capitol, I witnessed first hand one chapter of our history end and another begin. I was at once heartened, humbled, and overwhelmed with the majesty of a centuries-old ritual - the Inauguration of an American President - that is at the core of who we are, and who we can be.
Here we pass authority from one leader to another in a public event held at high noon. We transfer awesome powers from one administration to the next in the full light of day, instead of in crisis during the dark of night.
Flaws and all, Our America remains "the Garden" for modern democracies because of our unyielding trust in the justice of the liberty of the ballot, instead of the tyranny of the bullet.
On that day a little over a week ago, Our America began to stand a little taller, feel a little stronger, and took a step forward in the path toward replacing what we had become with what we know is possible.
President Barack Obama is not the complete fulfillment of Martin Luther King's Dream, but his inauguration marks a milepost on our journey.
Nearly two million citizens braved the harsh weather and inconveniences of a city quite literally shut down to gather in peace and voluntarily witness the transition of powers.
From our ancestral roots humans inherently place great mystery upon public ritual. The modern Presidency is unique. As head of state and head of government, American Presidents are expected to uphold our ideals and values while simultaneously doing those things necessary to make our government function.
Barack Obama now captains our ship of state. Together with his crew and the aid of Congress and the Courts he will begin to implement an agenda of renewal and restoration.
Upon his shoulders rests the collective weight of our past, present, and future expectations - about ourselves and Our America. Much has now been given to this young leader; much will be expected.
We must resist the urge for simplicity in understanding our new leader: for Obama is neither Lincoln, nor Roosevelt, nor Kennedy. President Obama, like the forty-two men before him, is the sum of personal conscience, life experiences, and God-given talents.
Though weathered over the past two-hundred and thirty-three years, America is still idealistic: we want leaders that will do more good than harm, men and women of faith that are committed to something larger than any one person. We believe that if good people lead, Providence will ensure that goodness can reign.
Mr. Obama, both brilliant and humble, possesses the strength and capacity to weave principle and policy. These are strengths for a leader; strengths for a nation.
More than anything else, Obama understands that he is a vessel. From the beginning of his journey, he knew what many of his predecessors too soon forgot: he is the instrument of the American People.
In time, we will reflect upon this transition as a moment in history when our national conscience stirred - when our people remembered that we are one nation, stronger united than divided.
Like many veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, I have struggled with the individual toll of sacrifice. Long ago I accepted that the needs of the many outweigh the few - and the one.
But over these past six years, I have had great difficulty understanding the reasons; I have attempted to reconcile the costs borne by the few for the sake of the many - when so few of the many ever truly appeared to care.
What I realized this past week is that the distribution of the burdens associated with our nation's decisions abroad and at home are within our capacity to change. Past does not have to be prelude: we can find a new balance - together.
We must never forget that despite our challenges, days like January 20, 2009 can still happen in America.
In America, and only in America, can a man that would have once been a slave because of his race, assume the mantle of leadership for the most powerful nation on the planet.
In that instant all the years away from family and friend revealed their worth. America is still the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the shining city on the hill.
And for those of us that have worn the uniform, it is a privilege to have played at least a minor role in keeping Our America the reservoir of hope and freedom.
All of us now have an opportunity to invest ourselves in changing the world, one neighborhood - one street - at a time.
Now truly is the moment when good people of all stations of life reach across differences and stand together as one nation, united in common cause.
This is our moment, this is our country - again. Together we can and will re ignite the flames of freedom, justice, and liberty. It is time for us to reclaim our heritage as the beacon of light.