I had the great honor to represent Out Leadership on the South Side of the Inaugural Platform this Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.
This experience was inspiring, strange, and… freezing.
Inspiring first because the Biden administration, which is bound to be the most inclusive in the history of the country, already displayed its commitment to diversity on the inaugural platform. Vice President Kamala Harris: first woman, first Black and first South Asian Vice President of the United States. J-Lo, a powerhouse Latina addressing the crowd in Spanish. Youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, whose work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora, recited a beautiful poem. The inauguration also came on the heel of the announcement on Tuesday that Dr. Rachel Levine will be Assistant Secretary of Health. Levine was the first transgender Pennsylvania Senate-approved appointment. Here is to many more moments like this during this Presidency.
The optimism was palpable in the attendance. I spoke to Rep. Jahana Hayes, my Congresswoman, who was the victim of horrendous racist attacks during the campaign. I also discussed the Franco-American relationships with Rep. Marcy Kaptur and how shared values would enhance cooperation. For the first time in months, we believed a dark page of American history was turning. It almost felt like a sigh of relief.
But it was also strange because being surrounded by members of congress covered in masks in isolated chairs caged in the Mall with the National Guard standing by visibly on the West Lawn was making complete sense on January 20th, 2020 but it would have looked INSANE in 2019. A testimony to the fragility of democracy but also the resilience of the American people. After the ceremony, I had lunch in the Longworth House Office Building surrounded by young soldiers in fatigue. A surprising sight which I would have expected in some of my World Bank assignments but not in the heart of the US legislative power. Besides security, the virus was also omnipresent. I had to come down to DC 48 hours earlier to get tested for Covid19 at the Pentagon and the festivities for Congress did not extend beyond the two-hours inauguration event. The 400,000 lost lives to COVID-19 were featured in Biden’s speech. There was also some sadness and sobriety at the inauguration.
Finally, it was a freezing day because the wind was blowing on the platform, and in my excitement, I had lost a glove on my way to the Capitol. We had received a note that we were welcome to bring blankets, but I did not dare although I was a bit jealous of Bernie Sanders’ mittens which looked very warm on the other side of the platform.
As we have mentioned in a previous piece, Out Leadership prepared a set of recommendations for the incoming administration which could foster greater inclusion in workplaces, tap into the power of the private sector to accelerate the pace of social change in America but also use this power to trigger change abroad. We are optimistic that January 20th, 2021 is a turning point and that we will rebuild even better. And I am immensely grateful I could witness this.
Now onto work.