‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’

‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’

‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’

Our readers were profoundly moved by John Mavroudis’s February 2 Obama inauguration cover and wrote in large numbers to tell us so. <


Our readers were profoundly moved by John Mavroudis’s February 2 Obama inauguration cover and wrote in large numbers to tell us so. Nation readers, always vigilant, let us know where we erred: Obama is facing the wrong way; we forgot to include _______(fill in the blank); we should not have included (a) Gandhi, (b) Thoreau or (c) _______(fill in the blank); the key was hard to read (we’re sorry; we’ve reprinted it on page 24). We are pleased to announce that in response to your many requests, the cover will soon be available as a poster. Stay tuned.    –The Editors

Washington, D.C.

I had just made it home after witnessing Barack Obama’s swearing-in and standing for hours on the National Mall in the frigid air, when I opened my mailbox and laid eyes on John Mavroudis’s cover of your February 2 issue. The image was so moving, I stood weeping in the hallway of my apartment building. I just imagined all those brave Americans who dared to strive for the milestone our country reached on January 20.


Saugerties, N.Y.

An infinitude of kudos to John Mavroudis for creating the best Nation cover ever. He beautifully captured what I and very likely so many others were imagining throughout the inauguration ceremonies: that the throngs packing the capital were dwarfed by an invisible contingent of all the people who’d devoted their lives–from the bad old days of the transatlantic slave trade right on up through the civil rights struggles of the ’60s and beyond–to making this moment possible. They knew this day would come; thanks to Mavroudis, they got to witness it with the rest of us.


Burbank, Calif.

If there is a more succinct illustration of that old adage about a picture and a kilo of words, I don’t know what it would be. From the story of an idea and the country founded upon that idea, to the individual stories of the men and women who embraced that idea and advanced it inexorably toward this moment, to the depiction of President Obama’s declaration that being an American transcends race, gender, culture and language, this cover is a triumph of artistic and editorial sensibilities. It underscores another well-known observation, that history is made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change circumstances for themselves and for us all. Well done!


Hartford, Wisc.

Your February 2 cover is the most moving and inspirational I can remember in the many years I have been a reader. A framed copy might help President Obama remember that, as amazing an accomplishment as his election was, there were others who came before to prepare the way. One could appropriately talk of standing on the shoulders of giants. (And thanks for giving Jackie Robinson the right number in your key.)



What a lovely cover by Mavroudis, with Obama being sworn in by Thurgood Marshall (who would certainly have gotten the oath of office letter-perfect). So many people brought babies to the inauguration to photograph them there, to make the great day part of family lore, to be able one day to say, “Yes, baby, you were there.” I hope you will produce this cover as a poster for homes and classrooms. It’s a keeper.


Highland Park, N.J.

I must truly say, save for the omissions of freedom fighters Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker, your inauguration cover was absolutely soul-stirring! The knowledge of the profound sacrifices made by our ancestors, old and young, in their quest for a more perfect Union, a more perfect America, brings tears to my eyes and reminds me daily of the great responsibility I, as their proud but humble descendant, have inherited to always seek truth and justice. Bravo!


New York City

How could you possibly have left Eleanor Roosevelt off that cover?


Gainesville, Fla.

Where, oh where, is A. Philip Randolph?


Thiells, N.Y.

I dug the cover, but what happened to Walter Reuther?



I really enjoyed the cover. But I missed a few faces: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Albert Vorspan, who marched with Dr. King in Selma. And where are Cordell Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon of the Freedom Singers? I would have included Ruth Bader Ginsburg too, but that’s just me.


Mavroudis Replies

San Francisco

Thanks so much for all the kind words. It was a humbling experience to learn about so many who gave so much to create such a moment.

Because a cover is only so big, there’s obviously not enough room for the literally millions of people who deserved to be on that podium, but I hope it’s a good representation of the civil rights movement. I knew many of those figures, but along the way I learned about Bayard Rustin, Ida Wells, William Still and, a bit too late for inclusion, many others… including Fannie Lou Hamer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.


Correction: Chip Off the Old Block

In Christopher Hayes’s February 16 “100 Days” column, “Never Say You’re Sorry,” former Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland was referred to as Representative Sarbanes, who is the senator’s son.

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