Forty years ago, in January 1969, I was living in Washington, DC, working at the Office of Economic Opportunity, the agency created by the Johnson administration to wage its War on Poverty. A young social activist, like others of my generation, I was committed to making a difference in the world and convinced that with hard work we could, in a few short years, bring about the change we sought.
How wrong we were. The election of Richard Nixon in November 1968, while not completely stopping the change we sought, certainly slowed it to a crawl. Those of us at the offices of the War on Poverty believed that we would have to take our fight for change outside of government. If we stayed, we were about to become guerrilla bureaucrats in order to survive and continue to work for the change we so fervently believed in. With the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld assisted by Dick Cheney to run OEO, the outcome was certain.
As the Inauguration Day of 1969 neared a handful of radical activists made plans to hold a counter-inaugural. The primary organizers were the radical group, The Hog Farm Commune, lead by Wavy Gravy, the nom de guerre of Hugh Romney (no relation to Mitt), the so-called hippie crown prince. It was called the InHoguration in honor of the inauguration of Pegasus the Pig as President.
And I was there with them.
The InHoguration was held in a circus tent on the mall. Rock bands played. It was a fun-filled event where it was easily possible to obtain what was then called a 'êcontact high.'ê
As time passed, it became clear that Nixon and his merry band were hardly just pranksters. They were criminals.
Now, 40 years have passed. We witnessed the inauguration of a wonderfully brilliant young African-American as President of the United States. Wiser and older now, we know that change does not happen overnight.
I will never know whether our counter inaugural changed anything. But I do know that Tuesday I was cheering with tens of millions of my fellow Americans with great pride and more than a few tears for the journey our country has made.