January 20th, 2009
05:01 PM ET

If Obama can inspire my parents...

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/20/wireless.service/art.inauguralcrowd.gi.jpg]

John King
CNN Chief National Correspondent

Erin Flanagan lost a brother in Iraq, and voted for John McCain after coming to believe his was the best approach to end the war that cost her family so much. But on this day, with her parents in attendance in at the Inaugural, she says, “I am hopeful indeed.”

So is Ellen Harley, a former Republican state legislator in Pennsylvania who now lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

“The American ideal that ‘All men are created equal’ – buried in years of wedge issues and war – is manifest in this man and his family,” Harley said in an email. “This is a seminal moment in our shared history.”

With the inauguration approaching, I reached out to a mix of people I have met over the course of the past six presidential campaigns, from top political strategists and elected officials to everyday Americans whom I have been blessed to meet in my political travels over the past 20 years.

Their views underscore the remarkable, and bipartisan, goodwill the new president has as he makes history and begins a new administration. But they also underscore the weighty expectations and offer some glimpses at the difficult policy challenges just ahead.

David Axelrod is to Barack Obama as Karl Rove was to George W. Bush – a most trusted political adviser and confidante, but also a close personal friend.
Asked for his thoughts early Tuesday morning, Axelrod said simply: “Impossible to put in words. All I can say is, what a great country.”

And consider this: Steve Schmidt, a top strategist in the McCain campaign, tells CNN: “I am very impressed with this man (Obama). When he is your opponent and you are wearing your campaign lens, there are things you don’t see. I am very impressed and I wish him well.”

Conservative activist Tony Perkins offered a more mixed assessment, describing this moment as “a milestone with multiple meanings for our country, some good, some not good.”

Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, applauded the election of the first African American president. But he also called him “the most liberal president this nation has ever elected. There are concerns that through his left leaning policies and idea that his promise of change will go way beyond ust changing the way government does business.”

I met Erin Flanagan after she asked GOP candidates a question about the Iraq war at a primary season debate in New Hampshire. Her brother, Michael, was killed in Iraq, and she anguished in the general election over whether Obama or McCain had the right approach to the war.
She settled on McCain, as did her father. But her mother supported Obama, and the war that caused their family so much pain was again the source of stress because of the political disagreements.

“I have never felt a stronger personal responsibility to choose a commander in chief,” Erin said. “We all agonized.”

Erin’s parents live in Pennsylvania, and were invited to the Inauguration by Democratic Senator Bob Casey.

“My parents will sit (hand in hand I hope!) in the audience to watch the handoff of the American presidency – the very office my mother believes to be responsible for the death of her beloved son. If President Obama can inspire my parents to look, together, toward a better tomorrow, well … I believe that anything is possible. Yes, I am hopeful indeed!”

Filed under: Barack Obama • Inauguration • John King
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. J Clark

    I have not read all the posts and not sure if this has been mentioned, however, why was he bi-racial and talked so much about the "white" side of his family and now that it is his swearing in, he is now the countries first"black" president. The white side of his family must feel so overwhelmed with pride right about now.

    January 20, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  2. Leslie R, Orange CA

    Some may not agree with how President Obama may have voted on past issues, but we would be foolish not to acknowledge the hand of God in this amazing turn of events. Mr. Obama's inauguration is healing centuries of bitter hurt in this nation in all of our hearts and brings hope of further healing.
    As Barack said so often during his campaign – it's not about him, it's about us, the American people. How wonderful that we can have such a profound change of leadership without bloodshed and in celebration. Do I agree with our President's stand on abortion? No. Do I like, admire and pray for him with all my heart? Absolutely! God bless you and keep you, Mr. Obama, and may God bless the United States of America!

    January 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  3. Dale Handy

    In the past the winning party celebrated their "victory" over their "opponents". Today America is celebrating the election of their new President. Refreshing indeed!!

    January 20, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  4. G W leech

    Why is everyone calling Obama the first African American to be elected president ? His mother is a white woman from Kansas .Would that not make him the first interracial President ? Why are the news reporters not reporting correctly ?

    January 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  5. Edmund Warburton

    Why is cnn and other station failed to show President Barack Obama grand mother from Kenya? They mentioned her name but did not shw her.

    January 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  6. Ash

    It is 5:30pm on Jan 20; A great day and we have hero as the president now. Please give his BLACKBERRY back to him and let him get some work done while watching the parade.

    January 20, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  7. dkdallas

    jim fallbrook you're going to have to wait eight years before President Obama will unfortunately have to leave the Oval Office. And if you want thugs talk to W, and President Obama will try his hardest to fix the damage W has done over the past 8 years

    January 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  8. ed

    History HAS been made. My concern is his legacy. I equate this moment to Jackie Robinson. President Obama has to prove he can handle the responsibilities of the Office of the President as well if not better than what is expected. Just as Jackie Robinson had to prove he was as good a ballplayer.

    January 20, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  9. Ann Fossan

    This is a question. Was Obama's half sister at the inaugeration. If not, why not?

    January 20, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  10. Brenda

    Thank you,Wolf Bitzer, Soledad, Candy, John King, David Gergen and the rest of the team on the excellent job you guys did in your reporting of the inaugaration. The reporting was balanced, respectful entertaining and wonderful. As an African American great grandmother it is with pride that I honor you and congratulate you and the rest of the team for a job well done.

    By the way, tell David Gergen, that I admire and love him.

    Brenda Dearmint

    January 20, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  11. Dennis

    Great job as always Mr. Cooper and CNN. I am wondering if there can be a posting of the benediction from the inaugural? A friend called and I missed it. 🙁

    January 20, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  12. Abel Tsegga

    The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.

    $30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
    $550 billion: U.S. Defense budget

    January 20, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  13. Dede

    Where is President Obama's sister Maya? Why hasn't she been shown on TV?

    January 20, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  14. Avis

    OK...that's enough of the satellite images. Let's get back to the parade!

    January 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  15. Dwayne Berry


    Today I hear the Voice Of Change; a change to stand as nation continues to echo in my heart!

    I hear the voice of change echoing for patience when I heard, “He that can have patience can have what he will. (Ben Franklin)

    I hear the voice of change echoing to teach me not to compromise but run for truth “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead...” (Thomas Jefferson)

    I hear the voice of change echoing “yes we can” when a great lady once said “No man can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

    I hear the voice of change echoing for me to put away my petty differences and remind me “to ask not what my country can do for me, but I can do for my country.”(JFK)

    I hear the voice of change echoing and heard one man shout for equality and said “ I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” (MLK)

    Today is the opportunity to begin to hear the truth and stand as a diverse nation that our fore fathers envisioned.

    No excuse to live in fear, hear the voices that helps us to stand!

    God Bless America!!!

    January 20, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  16. Lamont T. Jackson

    Hi John,

    I can't believe you guys missed the memorable point in his speech.
    There was an "Asked not What your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!"

    Pass it on he asked the country to "change with the change" Go back to the video tape.

    Respectfully submitted
    Lamont Jackson
    Bronx, NY

    January 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  17. James from TN

    I hope people that voted for John MCcain can support Obama now.We as a country have to come together and fix the broken promises of the last eight years.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  18. germaine sims

    to Jim Fallbrook,ca

    You are the kind that will keep America divided . No matter how you feel he is your President .

    Jesus said" He who has no sin cast the first stone
    I believe you need to appalogize to God for a hardened heart.
    I will pray for you .
    A country divided will not stand.

    Oh! by the way he will not fail because he has been ordained by God.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:50 pm |
  19. LaTosha Johnson

    As a young African American woman, I am overwhelmed with various emotions. I hate to say this, but I never thought I would live to see this day either. I am so excited America will finally be able to see the type of African American family that I grew up in and am accustomed to seeing-instead of the stereotypes that have been perpetuated in the media. The Obama-Biden Administration is incredibly diverse and I am so glad that more African Americans are being shown more. I have NEVER seen the media show this many African American Secret Service agents and those in the armed forces before in my life!

    His speech was right on target and I am still at a loss for words. Hail to the chief and God bless you, President Obama-What joy saying your name brings to my heart!

    January 20, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  20. Mike McCall

    I have never met President Obama in person, but I feel like I know him already. He seems to be centered, unselfish, intelligent, and articulate. He will lead us by example. The fact that he is black man may be a statement of some kind for our country- but I am most impressed by the person he is.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  21. Clare Cory

    Can someone please tell Soledad O'Brien that we did not all come from somewhere else, as she just stated on TV. The Native Americans were here for centuries before any of the European transplants.

    Thanks for remembering!

    January 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  22. Glenn

    As a human being who happens to be black, I'm grateful for our choice as Americans in selecting and appointing a man whose ancestors was once slaves and was mistreated, disrespected and thought of as being less than human throughout our country.

    I"m convinced that GOD made him half of one race and half of another to nullify the race issue and in a huge way help save humanity from itself and instill in ALL human beings of the world that any achievement under the sun can be accomplished if you believe in him.

    Personally I can't think of enough adjectives to describe what this day means to me. However, I will leave with this comment. In endorsing Barack Obama as our 44th President of the United States our country has just appointed as it's highest executive officer a human being whose descendants were slaves and now allow him to rightfully reside in a house that was built by their hands. How fitting, surely the GOD I know is smiling down at all of humanity throughout the WORLD on this day.

    By passing the test and wisely choosing this man as our President, Americans have passed the test I feel GOD had placed before us and chosen a human being based solely on his credentials and in accomplishing this perhaps may have extended it's own existence. So be it writtened and.......... The chapters of the world continues.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  23. Patricia Cooper

    I'm a Brit, living in Canada, but I have been caught up in the Obama saga for many months.

    This is not an inauguration, it is a Coronation.

    Long may he reign and may God Bless him, and God Bless America.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  24. Leigh Clifford Drake

    I am thrilled for the nation of this new era of change. I do however, take pause in the realization that America is willing to elect an african american MALE ahead of a female leader. We have progressed, but as true UNITED states still have more firsts to achieve. Capitol Hill is still a man's world. The good ole boy network is still alive. Here's to the opportunity for the future of ALL Americans:-)

    January 20, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  25. David & Wanda Aikens

    CNN is old news of yesterday. I had to break watching and celebrating the inauguration of the president I worked so hard for.
    You would not know it by CNN"s coverage. We worked for two years to
    turn Holland Michigan Democratic for Obama. But all CNN is celebrating is the black part of the country, get over it. Obama never ran as a black candidate and he is as much white as he is black and so is the country. Get on with it CNN, This is a celebration for the whole country. You are so out of it He is the canidate of change so it is time for you to change you have to get a new story we are tired of it.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  26. lauren

    if mr.obama wants to help thecountry so much then why doesnt he do like the ceo's are doing and not take his salary for the next 4 years,he really doesnt need it since our tax paying dollars pay for everything for him.if he is so wonderful then why is innauguration costing 4 times what any other presidents have. i still cant beleive we have a president that only has 2 years experince. lauren {tax payer}

    January 20, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  27. gabriel

    hey jim your a jerk and a fool , I also feel sorry for the dark place in the world you live.. bottem line dude you lost.....so shut up... your guy messed up and it is people like you that made today possible and if you continue to spout this stuff it will help us get 4 more years after this...The America you speakof does not nor has it ever been part of anything but your imagination...

    January 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  28. Kathryn

    It is no exaggeration to say your coverage of the inauguration has been
    fantastic–and that composite picture of "the moment" absolutely breathtaking.

    I have wondered, when you said about the departure ceremony that no president had ever done that before, if President and Mrs. Ford had not walked to the helicopter and waved goodbye to President Nixon?

    Of course it wasn't a departure ceremony exactly–not under the circumstances. But wasn't it like a departure ceremony, this time in which President and Mrs. Ford behaved with exceptional courtesy to
    a departinig president just as the Obamas did today?

    January 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  29. Carmen

    I am Canadian. I am finally hopeful that my closest neighbor has integrity, honor and the will of the people at heart. God bless us all.

    January 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  30. Lance Arthur Charles, Sr.

    To all,

    I am retired as of January 20, 2008. I have spent my life dealing with Unions, Corporate leaders, Community,State, and Federal Leaders and just plain old people like us.

    I left home when I was 17 , and went to California.

    I worked in Human Resources and Social Sciences.

    I have advanced Degrees in Business and Public Administration, wit Doctoral work in Public Administration.

    I am qualified to speak and say,

    Protect our new President and keep him and his family from assination and or silent prison of lawsuit resolutions.

    Lance A. Charles, Sr.

    I am affraid for the Our New President but we must protect him at all COST!!!!!!!!!!

    January 20, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  31. Steve

    What a great day for America. Historic beyond imagination. I would like to remind everyone that Obama is the First president from the beautiful state of Hawaii (where he was born) and a wonderful alumni of the Punahou School. Only in America can a dream like this come true.

    January 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  32. John

    After watching the Disney channel yesterday I'm amazed how the Obma's have made politics "hip". Kids all over the country are celebrating this moment and are aware of its significance....this is change...and a step in the right direction for all of us.

    January 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  33. Brenda

    God Bless America, President Barack Obama and all God's children. God was preparing Barack for this moment and hope has come, and my prayer is that God will bring all countries united together as one.

    God bless you Barack!

    January 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
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