I wish my dad had lived to see this day. Edward Jan Collins was the child of Jewish parents who died in the Holocaust, the brother of siblings scattered by war, the father of children born in America to a better life. As we prepare to inaugurate a new President, our first African American President, he would have been amazed at how far this country has come. My father was born in Poland. He came here through Ellis Island. He loved the country he adopted. He was very proud to be an American citizen. He even flew the flag on Independence Day and Presidents Day. I must say I never really felt his zeal. I even remarked when I eulogized him in 1995 that he was far more patriotic than I was. But then I didn’t escape a childhood of tyranny and oppression. Perhaps I have taken America and all that it gives me for granted.
On Sunday, while listening to Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger singing “This Land Is Your Land” on HBO, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt a welling of patriotism that I can’t ever recall. I felt hopeful and inspired. I was proud to be an American and so excited about the possibilities and opportunites that lie ahead. I can’t even imagine how this time in history feels for all the people who’ve felt disenfranchised over the years by the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation or their disabilities. It was so gratifying to see America in all its rich diversity come together to celebrate this pivotal moment. All singing with one voice, all under the gaze of Abraham Lincoln and the beaming smile of Barack Obama, all taking in the lessons of the past while looking forward to a brighter future. My dad would have been blown away.
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