Program Note: Be sure to watch Anderson report on the inauguration LIVE from Washington all weekend and on Monday and Tuesday.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/17/train.dispatches/art.obama.biden.cnn.jpg caption="President-elect Barack Obama speaks Saturday during his stop in Wilmington, Delaware."]
Searching the paper on the way to Washington, looking for news of the inaugural, the headlines warn of what lies ahead: "Big firms Deepen Job, Wage Cuts." "Circuit City To Liquidate." The storm clouds are all around us.
The challenges Barack Obama is about to take on are overwhelming, but not, of course, unprecedented. Abraham Lincoln took office with fears the country itself was on the brink of dissolution. Fears for his safety were so great he had to sneak through Baltimore on board his train. Maryland, like Virginia, was a slave state.
FDR's first inaugural was in the midst of the Depression. 1933. Relief would not come for many years more. So, as Barack Obama heads to Washington today, on a train trip that will re-trace some of Lincoln's own train journey, he shoulders a great burden, but one past presidents have as well. He arrives in Washington this evening with a groundswell of public support. More than Clinton did, more than Reagan.
On the plane heading to Washington this morning, there is excitement. People pose for pictures with one another, wanting to document, savor each moment of their journey to history. These next few days, are ones without politics, without labels, without divisions. That is how it should be at least. We are a young country, one that rejected the traditions of the past in order to form itself anew.
When we inaugurate a president, we celebrate our youth, our democracy, our vitality, our ability to transfer power peacefully. Today, and in the days to come, we pause on the brink of history, looking forward, and looking back, and we repeat the traditions which we ourselves created after our independence.
Traditions which remind us that we have faced worse problems in the past, and we have succeeded. We walk in the path of those who have come before us. Like the President-Elect, we do not make this journey on our own.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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