It was the night before the Obama Inauguration…

…and I’m in DC to attend a gala event sponsored by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation. We arrive in DC 2 hours before the event.
Wearing jeans and walking shoes and anxious to get out and walk the National Mall, I store my black-tie clothes in the coat check and descend the stairs onto Constitution Ave.

I grew up in Washington DC, granddaughter of both a US Congressman and a family of Lebanese immigrants, and daughter of a former combat veteran and senior civil servant. I believed in the integrity and infallibility of our government. Therefore the disillusionment and disappointment in our policies the last 8 years have been a depressing emotional and mental weight. My feelings are mixed as I walked towards the Mall.

It’s 5 pm and getting dusky. The Washington Monument, lighted to the top with huge spot lights, is circled by flags flying in the breeze. Walking west toward the Lincoln Memorial, it feels as if I’ve stepped into a flowing of humanity. Despite the sub-freezing weather, the Mall is filled with people, strolling. At times, there were so many black people I thought I was back in Africa where I lived for 2 1/2 years.

People are quiet and respectful, neither somber nor celebratory, but happy.
Everyone is talking quietly…there is no trash on the ground, no pushing, no awkwardness. I’m intent on walking the entire Mall past the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, to the Lincoln Memorial, over to the Viet Nam Memorial then back up to the Capitol. To get it done I have to walk quickly.
People politely let me pass. The site of the massive lighted statue of Abe Lincoln stops me. Dear God, he must be smiling today.

As the sun sets, the clouds glow peach and yellow highlighting the Capitol dome in the distance. It is time to stop blaming and making excuses why things are the way they are. It’s time to fulfill the responsibility of my citizenship and participate. I am very very proud to be an American.

Carol Batrus helped to establish our Isandlwana Village Program in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. When Elephants Fly, the memoir of her experiences in the village, working as WILD’s Community Development Advisor, transports readers into this tradition rich, small African village with a compassionate, and humorous story.¬† When Elephants Fly is available through WILD’s online store.

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