The National Academy of Education takes this opportunity to welcome and congratulate Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris to lead this nation as the 46th President and Vice President of the United States. Your inauguration represents the hallmark of our democratic traditions, the peaceful passing on of leadership. Out of challenge often comes opportunity. The themes across the inaugural events of hope and possibility are what we need to bind us together in this distinct historical moment as we wrestle with a world-wide pandemic, an economic crisis of a scale approaching the Great Depression, a climate of racial terror and division that has lingered across our 400-year history, and the impacts of climate change. The inauguration mirrored America, from our 2nd Catholic President, to our 1st African-American and Indian-American and woman Vice President, to the youngest and African-American inaugural poet, to the inspirational music from across traditions that uplifted our spirits, to the celebration of essential workers and teachers and the many – young and old – whose spirit of unsolicited giving are seen across the nation.
As opposed to the evening gala celebrations that typically only the well-connected can attend, this period of pandemic, requiring social distancing, led to a democratic celebration, through which we could aesthetically experience the hope of a healed nation, powerfully through the arts and storytelling.
Amazing Grace, the spiritual repeated from the Friday night remembrance of the hundreds of thousands who have died from the COVID-19 virus sung by an essential worker, to country singer Garth Brooks during the inauguration ceremony, to Yo Yo Ma’s cello celebration later that evening, served as the metaphor for the nation. Amazing Grace in many ways is a metaphor for the idea of America. Written in 1772 by Englishman John Newton, who among other roles was engaged in the slave trade as a captain of ships carrying enslaved Africans stolen from their homelands and ended up spending a year in forced servitude himself in Sierra Leone, the song moves across the waters, taken up in poor White communities in the south, by indigenous Cherokees during the horror of the Trail of Tears, to African-American pulpits across the country, to an anthem for the civil rights movement, to serving as an inspiration in multiple protest movements. Its message of redemption, of hope in the midst of human despair, captures the hope that as a nation, that as a people, we can continuously transform into a more perfect union:
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
‘Twas grace has brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home
This is our historic moment for grace. Our membership of leading education researchers and policy experts is poised to serve as a resource as you shape your administration and policy agenda. We look forward to supporting our shared goals of providing equitable and effective education that positively impacts the lives of America’s students.