The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States will be a mix of both solemnity and celebration, but it will also be a time for every television, newspaper and Internet huckster to make a buck. Yes, this is the season of the commemorative keepsake.
It is impossible to watch television, open the daily paper or surf the net and avoid ads for those tacky plates with Obama’s picture on them or those phony gold coins with his profile or the scarfs, stocking hats or t-shirts with the number 44 on them. Of course these ” one of kind” memorabilia will be shoved in a corner never to see the light of day on January 21st, but as the old marketing slogan says, “somebody out there will buy this stuff.”
The latest gimmick from the starving newspaper crowd is to give readers the opportunity to purchase a personal ad that will be placed in the paper on January 20th. I kind of like this idea; its akin to going to a wedding and writing a happy and hopeful thought to the bride and groom. Of course in this case President Obama will never have the time to read the thank yous and best wishes, but the newspapers will have scored some dollars to beef up their ever declining bottom line.
Despite the crass commercialism of the commemorative craze associated with the inauguration, the idea of buying a stake in the next president and even sending him good luck messages gives what has come to be called civic engagement a little boost. If Americans want to buy a piece of history or wear the colors of Number 44 or send him a note, this can only be one small sign that people are proud of Barack Obama and the Presidency.
Maybe, just maybe we are entering a period when our President is respected and even liked by the American people. We can only hope.