I watched the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States today at the Boston Athenaeum. During the ceremony, I stood a few feet from a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, which the Athenaeum had put on display for the day. When Obama put his hand on the Lincoln Inaugural Bible for the oath of office, I couldn't help but wonder what Lincoln was thinking when he signed that copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, one of 48 which were sold in 1864 to raise money for health care for soldiers. Could he ever have imagined this day coming? And my mind turned to William Lloyd Garrison as well, who helped found the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 at the African Meeting House, a five-minute walk from the Athenaeum. What would Garrison have to say as Obama swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, a Constitution which Garrison despised. Garrison regarded a union which included slaveholders as fundamentally corrupt, but waited in great anticipation for the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which set off a celebration in Boston when news of its signing arrived by telegraph. As I listened to Obama speak, I occasionally looked out into the sunshine flooding the Granary Burying Ground, thinking about those buried there who sacrificed so much for liberty: Sam Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, James Otis, Paul Revere, and Crispus Attucks, among many others. Obama's inaugural speech made explicit the values of that Revolutionary generation, calling us to believe in something deeper than current political concerns. That generation would likely have thought it inconceivable that a person of African descent would one day lead the American project. But yet they helped create the political documents and ideals which brought that same day to pass, a Declaration of Independence which declared that all men are created equal, a Constitution which set certain rights in bedrock, yet with the flexibility to be adapted to guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to more and more people over the years. We are the inheritors of a great, if sometimes flawed, history. I can only hope that Garrison and Lincoln and all those who sacrificed so much for the cause of civil rights and liberty know that today three-fifths has finally been made whole.