Why I cried tears of joy as the United States begins a new chapter - Christa Ackroyd

I start this week with a question. I cannot quite fathom the answer as to what tipped me over the edge, but I will try.

Vice President Kamala Harris celebrates with Joe Biden after being sworn in during the inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Getty Images).

Maybe it is lockdown blues. Maybe I am just getting soft in my old age. Perhaps isolation is getting to me. But why, oh why did I sit watching the inauguration of the President and Vice President of America with tears streaming down my face? What is more, why did so many of my friends feel exactly the same?

I’ll tell you why I think so many of us found the whole ceremony so moving. It’s because for months, in America’s case the last four years, I have felt that the world is askew, out of kilter. And it’s not just coronavirus, although that is at the heart of what triggered my emotion on Wednesday I am sure.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In recent times, too many people have resorted to anger, to pointing the finger at others, creating yet more division. Not only that, but too many have revelled in that division at a time when we should all be pulling together. And reveller in chief has arguably been the outgoing President of the United States of America. And that has been damaging to us all.

Donald Trump has used, or rather misused, his power to shout the odds. He has relished the anger and resentment he has caused. It has given him the sense of power he has craved.

He rode roughshod over people’s grief by failing to respond to the death of George Floyd and he failed to support and comfort those who have lost loved ones due to the pandemic by downplaying its impact.

He kicked out those who dared to disagree with him and surrounded himself with sycophants, many of whom are now scrabbling about trying to distance themselves from him.

He spread lies and division over the election and he inflamed that division until it spilled over into a riot in which people died at the seat of US democracy. Well he has gone. He has sloped off to his haven in Florida with a pathetic turnout of supporters to wave him goodbye. Well good riddance.

This week, I believe we all breathed a collective sigh of relief as democracy, and decency, returned to the White House. Didn’t it feel calm? Wasn’t it inspirational?

But above all it felt like America had just reset itself. For me, the emotion began the night before the inauguration when President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris stood before 400 lights illuminating the Lincoln Memorial, each one representing a thousand people who have died from Covid 19 in the US and showed them the respect every one of them deserves.

“It is hard sometimes to remember,” Joe Biden told the nation, “but that is how we heal.” His Vice President also paid tribute to those lives lost. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight we grieve together,” she said.

The mark of a true politician is someone who genuinely cares and is not afraid to show it. Of course, Trump said something similar in his last address. I didn’t listen. And I was glad he had chosen not to attend the inauguration ceremony. He would have tainted it with his very presence.

The ceremony itself was inspiring. Lady Gaga was spectacular singing the American national anthem with a voice as big as her frock. But for me, the tears really fell when Jennifer Lopez sang “This Land is your land. This land is my land... this land is made for you and me.”

Biden’s speech was masterful and moving as I knew it would be. He is not only a seasoned politician of 50 years, he is a man who has overcome tragedies in his own life, the death of his wife and his child in a car crash, the death of his son, Beau, from brain cancer in 2015, a son he saw as one day standing in his shoes as president of the United States of America.

But above all he is a good man who can heal the divide deliberately created by his predecessor. His choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate was both bold and wise. They had fought each other for the presidential candidacy.

It had been a tough fight and yet here they were on Wednesday side by side pledging to do their all for the American people, as the President said whether they voted for him or not. “Politics”, he said, “need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement does not have to be a ...total war.” Amen to that.

And then he called for tolerance and humility or, as his mother would say, an ability to “stand in their shoes.” And that is a lesson for all politicians at home and abroad. And for each and everyone of us.

This week there has been a debate about something as relatively trivial as a pack of playing cards with a new, gender neutral, version being produced based on the fact that the King always trumps the Queen even though their value is arguably the same. I say keep them as they are. They serve as a reminder that there are still many glass ceilings to be shattered.

Yet Kamala Harris has smashed that glass ceiling in a country where only a quarter of elected politicians are women. Not only that, but she is proud of her heritage as much as she is proud of her gender, proud to be the daughter of an immigrant.

I believe she will be the first female President of the United States some day. That is the potential path that lies ahead. And it matters. Trump with all his misogyny has gone. Now, every little girl the world over can dream and dream big.

I think that is why I cried the most. Because a man who respects women, a man who respects those who don’t always agree with him but seeks to find common ground is now in charge of the most powerful country in the world.

And what could be more powerful, or more moving, than that?