Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inauguration Day with Obama and Oprah

The Obama World Tour culminated in an INCREDIBLE Inauguration Day, including meeting the Big O- not Obama, but OPRAH! I somehow found myself about 150 feet away from the podium, where I rolled with the likes of Denzel Washington, Samuel L Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Oprah, and Sarah Silverman.

On Friday, I got a phone call that my buddy had an extra Congressional Ticket to the Inauguration in DC. Though I was supposed to be flying back to LA, I figured out how to get from upstate New York down to DC the Monday before Big Tuesday, and spent the night with two of my best friends from Duke, who had also volunteered on the campaign. Early Tuesday, we took the metro into town, which was already packed with people, cheering and crying. My friends had tickets to a different section, so I was left on my own—I put on my ipod headphones and made my way through the crowds, past security, and onto the Capitol lawn. Once inside, the Israeli in me kicked in, and I wondered how close I could get to the podium. I stealthily maneuvered my way through some gates, over a small wall, and somehow found myself in the VIP section with friends of the Pres. and VP. I looked to one side of me and there was Denzel Washington and Samuel L Jackson, hugging and celebrating the historic moment. I turned then to my other side and only three feet away from me was OPRAH (and Gail). I stood there in disbelief and awe for about ten minutes, until I finally built the courage to talk to her.

“Oprah,” I said, “I just want to shake your hand. Thank you for all the work you are doing in South Africa. It inspired me throughout my ten months living there, and I am now in post-production on a film about my friend’s story of hope living with HIV.”

She gave me the Oprah eyes of compassion, love, and understanding, and squeezed my hand.

I smiled, handed her my card, and thanked her again for all the work she has done.

Then, the big moment had arrived, almost too magnificent to comprehend. After all that our country has been through, the pain and divisions amongst people here was finally a celebration of moving beyond boundaries towards a common goal of hope. Together with 1.8 million others on the Capitol Mall, and millions watching and listening all over the world, I witnessed the swearing in not just a new President, but a new era of American politics and power. I was about 150 feet away from the podium.

As Yo Yo Ma played, I noticed that the woman sitting beside me was good ol’ Sarah Silverman. I have always regretted not talking to her at the “Mechina: A Preparation” DVD release party, and here life had brought her to me again. She remembered seeing the film and we talked about Israel, where her sister lives but she has never visited. She introduced me to her friend and together we smiled, cheered, and cryed.

Writing this now brings tears to my eyes. I know that I can’t expect President Obama to solve all of our many problems, but I believe he can steer our country again in the right direction, and that he can—and already has—inspired millions to be a part of that change. Yes, We Did. Yes, We Will.

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At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Cootee Cutler said...

Fantastic. Mazel Tov!

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