A new era begins with ancient oath

The Obama inauguration attracted millions. People traveled great distances to see the man promising change. It was an historic event many simply had to experience in spite of the crowds and cold weather.

The oath given the 44th president had been taken many times before. Jon Meacham wrote about an inauguration in 1824. He told his readers that following a cold spell, sunlight poured down on the city and 20,000 people converged on the Capitol grounds for Old Hickory's inauguration. Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans, was a servant of the people, a man who produced stirring rhetoric and the object of wide public affection. Jackson had political appeal, was a man easily embraced by the public and was much like a minister leading his flock. He moved among his supporters with grace and dignity. Jackson was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice John Marshall. Andrew Jackson rode to the White House on a white horse while being greeted along the way by the admiring public.

Meacham's description of that earlier inauguration struck memories as the 44th president took his oath. Of course, President Barack Obama did not ride a white horse down Pennsylvania Avenue, but he did address the common man promising working people change and solutions to economic problems.

The new president's hand was on the Lincoln Bible as Chief Justice John Roberts asked him to swear to protect and defend the Constitution. He also had to promise faithfully to execute the office, but the Chief Justice got the words out of sequence and the oath had to be taken twice.

In writing about Old Hickory, Amos Kendall described the tree as tall and graceful, indigenous to America. "It yields gracefully to the gale of spring and bows in whispers to the breath of autumn. When the storms of winter invade the forest, it presents its recoiling strength to the blast and saves its frailer neighbors from the fray of the storm."

Those words were written about Andrew Jackson, but perhaps they also describe some of the same traits shared by our new president. As President Obama faces many burdens, his followers believe he is their savior. They hope his leadership will one day enable him to stand under a banner declaring "mission accomplished." They hope he will be as a sturdy hickory saving his frail neighbors from the fray of the storm.

The international community watches a new era in American history and wonders if the new shepherd can lead his flock back to peace and prosperity.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.