On that unusually hot March afternoon, a photographer panned the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial and caught several of us with our feet in the reflecting pool, tiny figures in a throng who had no idea we were listening to history. We wound up in Look magazine illustrating the cover story. The words that day floated overhead in inspirational cadences, but some of us, many of us, were grounded in grievances, in a hurry to make the world a better place at a time when many black Americans were not allowed to vote.
Flash forward two score and five years to a cold January day where Barack Obama is sworn in as our 44th president. The crowd is bundled in heavy jackets and scarves, and no one would risk feet in the icy reflecting pool. But the new president remembers Martin Luther King: "Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character's content."
Over the weekend, I talked to a group of aspiring journalists, ages 8 to 18, covering the inauguration for Children's Pressline, an organization that teaches kids who want to be reporters to learn how to cover a big story with big questions.
"I want the policy details," says Alex Tebo, a seventh-grader from New Orleans, who adds he sharpened his questions every night at the dinner table in a debate with his parents. Alex and his young colleagues wanted to know how the new administration intended to solve the problem of delivering affordable health care, particularly for children, whether they could expect better schools and better teachers, what could be done to bequeath a future without crushing debt.
All good questions. How will Washington answer? That's the big story just now beginning to play out now, as the multitude departs the capital and the new president is left with our impossible dream.