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January 21, 2013
I had planned to buy our tickets to the annual Martin Luther King breakfast at the prayer service last night at New Hope Baptist Church, as I usually do. But no-- they were all sold out! The largest banqueting venue in town can't hold any more people. Note to self: buy MLK breakfast tickets early next year.

I don't know what it's like in your town, but the MLK weekend is a workout here. Temple Emanu-el's choir and the gospel choir at New Hope join forces. We clergy enter the church one by one, as our names are called and the organ plays us in, its reverb set all the way up to 9, so that one feels like a football player taking the field. Two neighboring mayors spoke, and two of our retired mayors were acknowledged. Our current mayor was the keynoter. A middle schooler recited a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, impressive in both its length and its delivery. A wreath was dedicated, to adorn the MLK statue near the borough hall. We heard a Hebrew setting for "We Shall Overcome" -- this was a first for me, but the cantor says it's very popular and she gets requests for copies of it every year. Four high school students received MLK scholarships. This year New Hope's senior pastor, famous for his ability to cajole donations more generous than the givers probably intended out of their wallets and into the MLK scholarship fund, yielded that particular baton to the new young rabbi in town. We'll wait for the count and see how he did -- the senior pastor is a tough act to follow.

One more MLK service, this one for hospital patients and staff members, and then I was finished. An elderly parishioner is in with pulmonary congestion, so I dropped in on her and then home to see the inauguration. It was a beautiful day in Washington: sunny and cold, but not cold enough to spoil things. The Obama girls are growing up, and growing up beautifully. The First Grandmother was there, in the background as always, the family member most responsible for seeing to it that the sisters have something approaching a normal life. Michelle was beautiful as always, and the president seemed sober but relaxed. His speech was good, clear and unifying -- short, too: he came in under eighteen minutes! The walk down Pennsylvania Avenue was less serious, and by the time the pair reached the White House everyone was smiling and laughing except the Secret Service.

How they must dread that walk, I thought. There was a time when the president made that trip in an open car, but that hasn't been the case since President Kennedy was shot. President and Mrs. Carter walked the entire distance between the Capitol and the White House -- that must have been a security officer's nightmare. The phalanx of motorcycles leading the parade, the fleet of black cars surrounding the president's limousine -- it's not what we would like it to be. I wonder if the Obamas think about the danger much. How could they not? And on this day, a day on which we celebrate the birthday of a leader struck down in the prime of his life. They probably make a conscious effort not to dwell on it. But how could they not think of it?

The world is a dangerous place. I've been praying for the president for as long as I can remember, no matter who it was, and I intend to continue. We all should. You may or may not agree with the current administrations policies and goals, but both you and your president are human beings, children of the same loving God.
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