Ally Johnson Journal Staff
TRIGGER WARNING: The following opinion piece contains information about sexual assault.
Three things coincided this past Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. There was President Barack Obama’s Inauguration, Martin Luther King Day, as well as National Gun Appreciation day. Firearm enthusiasts rejoiced as others scratched their heads at the obvious displacement of one.
Progress is a word that should hold certain gravity yet in the past few months – with multiple shootings, a gang rape occurring in Ohio that’s currently being swept under the rug, and the love of guns overriding the love of life – it’s difficult to imagine the idea of progress actually turning into a reality. In the past four years, President Obama has been forced to tread the waters in terms of upsetting Congress and the Republican Party. Yet on Monday, audiences bore witness to a new, invigorated Obama who was seemingly done with beating around the bush and decided to face the country’s most prevalent issues head on.
It’s being said that Obama gave what could arguably be one of the most progressive inauguration speeches. It hit on points that many before him were fearful to mention, such as LGBTQ rights and the rights they should undoubtedly share with the rest of the world. He said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
This is a huge stance to take with such a large audience looking on and the impact is not slight. He went on to mention the fight we have ahead of us to make sure that women are treated with the same respect and granted the same rights that men are given without question. He mentioned his hope in handling the immigration system and allowing people the same opportunities and successes that the United States used to pride itself on for delivering.
He spoke about fighting to keep children from anywhere in the country safe from violence, and yes: that is him alluding to gun control.
After months of campaigning, debates, and speeches, Obama finally mentioned that climate change is in fact a real thing – not the Big Foot-like myth that Fox News wishes you to believe – and something needs to be done about it. To further his points, he made mention of Stonewall, Seneca Falls, and Selma, Alabama. This matters because not only does it reference that all three are major marching grounds for equality, but all three were also great landmarks for change.
Change: that operative word when it comes to Obama. Selma is considered to be the starting grounds for the black-rights movement, Seneca Falls in New York is where the first women’s rights convention was held, and then he mentioned Stonewall. Stonewall was a popular gay bar in the 1960’s where, when during a raid, the men fought back at the police trying for their arrest. All three were monumental moments for each and every fight for equality, but they were also in the past. So why mention them now?
Today there is still sexism, racism, and homophobia, yet we have a President who is willing to stand before millions and speak out against all of those crimes: whether they are violent – such as a school shooting – or non-violent – such as equal pay for women.
Undoubtedly, there of those who either believe these to be empty words, but no matter what: they were said, they were heard, and as people we can just hope that they’re acted on. Progress is necessary and maybe, despite the troubling actions of late, we’re finally headed in the correct direction.