I (make that we) cope with double 'inauguritis'

The Baltimore Sun

We are in peril, trying to write today's column, but we see the possibilities. We want to make progress, but that requires partnership. We shall put aside our differences, though, for that is the only way to achieve our dream of One Column.

We have woken to a new day, and we have gone to another inauguration.

Which is why we are suffering inauguritis, that condition afflicting those who have been to two inaugurations in a row. It has rendered us unable to say the word I rather than we, and we find ourselves speaking in that lulling rhythm of the inaugural address, where every this has a parallel that - and, optimally, they are alliterative.

We went to the inauguration of Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday, followed by the ceremony for his successor as Baltimore mayor, Sheila Dixon, yesterday, and we now are ready to tackle everything from global warming to homelessness, the high cost of college to the high cost of housing, the biggest terrorist threat to the smallest pothole.

Actually, after a bruising election year, the inaugurations provide a comforting break, an interlude between campaigning and governance, a moment - and surely it's a fleeting one - to imagine that all things indeed are possible before realizing all too soon, uh, probably not.

Yesterday, a warm and welcoming crowd at Baltimore's War Memorial building frequently applauded and cheered Dixon, clad in a tangerine suit and introduced for the first time as mayor to the tune of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?"

With O'Malley and another former mayor, Thomas J. D'Alesandro III, sitting on the stage - maybe that's why, during his remarks, Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr., referred to someone named "Thomas O'Malley" - Dixon took the oath of office.

Perhaps she will have a briefer honeymoon than most newly inaugurated officials - she is serving out the rest of O'Malley term as mayor, which runs through December, but much of that time surely will be consumed with political jockeying leading up to the Democratic primary in September.

Dixon is expected to run for her own term, and she'll be challenged by a number of officials who were on stage with her or in the audience - including Conaway, who delivered the oath of office, various City Council members, state legislators and other local officials.

Still, no matter what happens in the future, Dixon will always have her place in the city's annals as its first female mayor. In a city where one of every four households is headed by a woman (compared with one of seven statewide) and a city that is majority black, Dixon's ascension is a point of pride for many.

"I'm glad to be here. I'm just proud. An African-American woman being mayor in Baltimore - it's a big step in history," said Jessica Johnson, 16, a member of the Western High School Concert Choir, which sang at the ceremony.

"It means a lot to us, Western being an all-girls school," said another choir member, Chemia Hughes, also 16. "It's a big event."

Dixon was ushered into office yesterday in a room full of such hopes.

Chris Donaldson, who lived in Anne Arundel County for some years before moving back to her hometown of Baltimore in 1998, had never been to a mayor's inauguration before yesterday.

"You know what I thought? Right after Martin Luther King's birthday, for Sheila Dixon, a woman, to be sworn in as mayor, is just excellent," said Donaldson, 52, of Pen Lucy. "I wouldn't miss it."

Like others, Donaldson was further cheered by having a former Baltimore mayor in the governor's office, and she left the inauguration hopeful that between O'Malley and Dixon, Baltimore would continue to progress.

"It's a good time to be in the city," she said.

You didn't have to be either a woman or an African-American to hope for Dixon's success. Rabbi David E. Herman, who gave the closing benediction, prayed that she would have the wisdom of Solomon and the grace of Queen Esther in confronting the city's problems, before acknowledging that there are many mysteries to which God alone is privy.

"Why you took more than 200 years to have a female leader," Herman intoned with perfect timing, "I do not know."


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