Eight years ago, this week, I was at Babson College in Boston on the start of the inaugural class of the Saltire Fellowship. Babson is the No1 college for entrepreneurship in the US and consistently tops the charts in this regard. We were all summoned from class to watch the swearing in of President Obama. I recall people in the room were pretty excited as we watched the big TV - mostly Americans. They were jabbering and shuffling in their seats. It felt for many of them like a new dawn, a new era, a new politics.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed and didn’t really get what all the fuss was about. I now feel vindicated in my lack of enthusiasm, as the Obama presidency has felt uninspiring, weak and more about the fairytale of the Obamas. That said, I do have to say that Michelle is a class act and maybe one I would have voted for. I can certainly reference the Obama inauguration as an event because a new chapter was starting in my life, but I guess that’s as good as it gets. Ergo, this made me think about today and the swearing in of President Trump.
This feels like an occasion folks. I might get out the bunting for this. This is one I will say to my grandkids: “I remember exactly where I was the day President Trump took office.” I’m rather excited about it! Real change is in the air it appears.
There have been two very distinct events where people of our generations have been able to pinpoint a moment in time that stopped them in their tracks and left an indelible mark in their memory banks. The first one is the assassination of JFK, the 35th president of the USA. Although television was in its infancy then, the moment the special bulletin was flashed up on CBS News caused a stir. It announced that JFK had been shot three times. An hour later Walter Cronkite was live in the studio when he received the confirmation. Cronkite read out: “President Kennedy died at 1 pm central standard time. Two o’clock eastern standard time… some 38 minutes ago.” He then took off his glasses, swallowed hard and for that short period, one could feel the barnstorming emotion and magnitude of what had taken place in Dallas, Texas. This assassination was a world event that sent shockwaves globally and rooted people to the spot when they heard it. Many Scotsman readers will indeed remember the day JFK was shot.
For me, and others, the day the world changed was when my friend - now departed, Paul Watson - called me on my mobile and asked if I had the TV on. I put it on quickly and saw that the North Tower of the World Trade Centre was on fire. The date was September 11, 2001. The time was 1.55pm. I was pottering around the house on annual leave. I then watched as United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower as I kept Paul on the line. I will never forget this moment and the subsequent collapse of both towers. It is ingrained on my memory and I could write screeds about it in this column as if it were yesterday. It was an event that changed the world I live in. Every time, I go to airports and stand in queues, I know why.
Today feels like one of these moments in time. I’m glad to say and I’m hopeful that no-one will lose their life. I don’t need to see any more of this on live TV. If another Clinton was being sworn in, I’d make it my best effort to miss it and have an afternoon nap instead. How dull would that have been? But, it’s not. It’s Donald J Trump and I will be glued to my TV screen, along with the 63 million Americans who voted for him. Let’s not forget that please. He deserves that level of dignity.
At 4pm today a moment in time will take place that you will remember. The moment when America decided it wanted to put a non-career politician in the White House who is most certainly going to stir things up. Your lives are about to change. If I’m not mistaken, Obama came over here and told the UK we would be at the back of the queue in any trade talks. But Trump has stated we will be up front and get a great deal. That’s the difference between those who play politics with our lives and those who can see what the right thing to do is – in their eyes. Where is David Cameron anyway?
There’s no doubt Trump has had some ‘head in the hands’ moments on the campaign trail, as well as some more than questionable remarks and perceived attitudes. The fact is though, he was voted in – he’s going to be inaugurated today. Let’s deal with it and not dwell – negative thinking and moping got no-one anywhere.
America is swearing in a new Commander-in-Chief: a 70-year-old billionaire. It’s not easy to tell him what to do, so make sure you remember the day he took office as it’s going to be a rollercoaster ride.
Whatever the Trump Presidency produces - and it is going to have moments of real amplitude and theatre - 4pm today is a moment I’m going to record in my memory banks. It’s no longer business as usual.
Razorlight perform the song, America. One of the lyrics reads – “All my life watching America. All my life there’s panic in America.” They weren’t half wrong there….