SMALL MIRACLES: THE PEOPLE'S INAUGURAL
"A U.S. businessman is spending $1 million to give hundreds of underprivileged Americans and others one of the best views in Washington of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration celebration on January 20." VOA News, Dec. 5, 2008.
"Our foundation is thrilled about the unprecedented opportunity to bring Americans of every walk of life together for a momentous celebration," said Earl W. Stafford, Sr., who founded the Stafford Foundation in 2002. "We are committed to giving the underserved a chance to prosper and thrive, and these events will offer them a front-row seat to our nation's historic celebration in downtown Washington . Market Watch.
In another time and another place it would have been unheard of, this 'People's Inaugural' to celebrate the beginning of the days of office of the next President of the United States. But this is this time, and the winds of change and of greater openness to care for those who are often invisible within our society are here - the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the wounded veterans of America's overseas campaigns. These disadvantaged and often disenfranchised people are being invited to the 'People's Inaugural' in Washington D.C. on January 20th, a celebration and event paid for by the Stafford foundation and the largesse of Earl Stafford, a Virginia businessman who rented 300 rooms at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue a week before the election this past November for this purpose.
His vision - to give a presence to the people who are not ordinarily part of this great American event - to give to the 'less than' a piece of history, of their history - to make them a part of the great American way. Rooms at the Marriott were paid for by a million dollar gift from the Stafford Foundation which also includes food, transportation, and even gowns and tuxedos for the attetndees. Various social service agencies and non-profit organizations across the country are being asked to send representatives from the populations they serve to this special gathering, with decisions as to who to send being left up to them.
This gesture exists as a lodestar in the public eye for that which is inclusive and embracing - for that which has rarely been dared before, even if it were thought of before, namely, to bring into full citizenship and full participation within a vision of unity, those who are most likely to feel left out of it.
Earl Stafford, speaking on NPR's Tell Me More on Dec. 8th said that he was inspired by his Christian faith and by Spirit to do this in a very direct and specific way and made the arrangements even before knowing the results of the election. He wishes the rest of America to see what can happen when people step up to care for others - to recognize that we are all part of one fabric and whole.
Gestures such as this move us, letting us know that it is time to recognize what previously may have been covered within our own lives - the small and large ways that we do not embrace others or see them as entirely real or entirely visible. This is a time for awakening to the reality of what is and to the reality of others in the deepest sense of the meaning of 'awake'. Our consciousness in America needs to awaken and is, indeed, already changing. Let it be a change that brings great good for America and for her fundamental virtue - to bring out of many, One.
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