(We can't get LinguistFriend's blogger account working for whatever reason, so I posted this for him, but he wrote it... CC)
Kit Ketcham has provided us at her blog with the words of Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction at the end of Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Lowery, as Kit recalls, was cofounder with Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Lowery’s own words are indeed wonderful, but they reminded me of other words which further illuminate the nature of yesterday's drama for people of his generation. My best Latin teacher, Dr. John Colby of Phillips Andover school, initiated his students to the reading of Latin prose in the form of medieval Latin legends and the Latin Bible. One of these biblical texts was spoken by the elderly Simeon (Luke 2:25-33), to whom it had been foretold that he would see the Messiah before he died. So he waited at the temple in Jerusalem, and when the infant Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon took him in his arms, and blessed God and spoke the words known as the Song of Simeon: "Now you let go your servant, oh Lord, according to your word in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel". This text I learned in Latin many years ago; the English version here is a mixture of the NRSV and my version of the Nestle-Aland Greek text.
Obama of course is not the Messiah, and he does not claim to be, although the tasks that await him are worthy of one. But the role of Rev. Lowery at the inauguration was precisely that of Simeon. His text, which Kit has kindly made available, deserves to be read carefully. From another point, of view, Lowery is also a distinguished representative of countless many Africo-American people. I am reminded more than others of the faculty of Hampton University, where my father taught architecture many years ago, and other black professionals for whom such an event as yesterday’s could have been no more than a wild dream. My black adopted youngest son sent me a message from Los Angeles yesterday, expressing that fact well: “ Take time to reflect on how amazing this day is historically!!! WOW!!!” (his emphasis), words that have less dignity than the song of Simeon, but also work.