Tuesday, January 20, 2009
What a wonderful day!
The alarm was set for 3:15 a.m. I got myself out of bed, fed the cats, and dressed. Warmly. Numerous layers. Silk long johns, followed mens' thermal sleep pants and my jeans. Thermal shirts, a wool sweater topped by my Icelandic wool jacket and a fleece cape. Warm hat. Leather lined gloves topped by Icelandic wool mittens. I bought new boots at Target (which cost me $8.75 in the Clearance section) on Saturday, lined to keep you warm (down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.) Didn't get that cold today, but the temperature barely made it above freezing.
I was lucky to get a Silver ticket to the Inaugural. This got me onto the Mall just below the Reflecting Pool, which is south of the Capitol. (There is also another Reflecting Pool by the Lincoln Memorial.) One could see the Capitol, but the Jumbotron provided better coverage.
I arrived in D.C. after 6 a.m., getting out at L'Enfant Plaza, as the train would not be stopping at the next station, Federal Center. Metro had closed the station because there were too many people trying to exit from there. This was where I should have gone out because the Security entrance for the Silver ticket was closest to this stop. It made sense to get off at L'Enfant Plaza, and I was able to calm out-of-towners who knew they had to get off at Federal Center. I said it was only a few blocks away. In the end, it didn't matter. The line for the Silver Tickets was stretching all the way down Independence Avenue by the Air and Space Museum. As I walked toward Independence to make my way to the line, I spotted a hotel, which of course would have a ladies room. I got in line, which was very long, but a very kind hotel employee took a group of us to another ladies' room, which was actually located in the FEMA building, attached to the hotel. He took us right through security.
Then it was off to the Silver ticket line, which moved slowly until 8 am when the checkpoint opened. I got into the Mall after 9, which meant I had at least another hour until the music started.
Security had checked my plastic bag and padded down my pockets ... nothing major. I surveyed my surroundings to see where would be the best place to stand. There were several Jumbotrons, as well as Portapotties. Many of us moved toward the front of the fence, which was a flimsy green plastic fence, which all of a sudden collapsed ... and the peasants charged out, around the Reflecting pool to a barrier made out of bike racks in front of the Reflecting Pool. Let's just say the US Capitol police watched with amusement as we filled in the empty section in front of the Reflecting Pool. We cheered. We applauded the police as they drove or rode their bikes around the area. We started all the cheers O BAM A or YES WE CAN. Or YES WE DID! I started that one, actually -- and we would hear the cheers resonate down the mall.
So if you see any aerial shots, look for the Capitol - and then the street that divides the Capitol from the Mall. I was in the first row of the pile of many, many people. Make that hundreds of thousands of people. Make that perhaps more than a million people. Two million people!
It was impossible to go to the Inauguration and the parade afterward due to separate security checkpoints. The parade route was largely filled in by people even before the Inauguration was finished. This was perhaps a good thing. The parade was scheduled to start at 2:20 p.m., after the Departure of President Bush and the Congressional luncheon, where Senator Ted Kennedy, who is suffering from brain cancer, suffered a seizure.
The USA may be a republic, but we do have pomp and circumstance, and pageantry. Symbolic pomp to be exact. Pomp based on tradition. You won't find foreign dignitaries attending an Inauguration. Invitations are never extended to other heads of state or heads of governments. Heirs to thrones don't get to represent their fathers or mothers at a Presidential Inauguration. Foreign ambassadors, however, do receive invitations.
January 20th is a day for Americans and America. This is the day, every four years, when a president is inaugurated. Not every one is happy with the choice. I voted for Bush in 2000, but not in 2004. My feeling: don't let the door hit you on the way out! I've been an Obama supporter for two years. He got my vote even before he became a candidate, thanks to a super Newsweek magazine profile.
The guest list for this inauguration included the former living presidents and their wives. Senator Clinton, who has not yet been confirmed as Secretary of State, walked out with her husband, President Clinton. All three of the former living vice presidents were also in attendance: Mondale, Quayle and Gore. Ditto the former Speakers of the House (Foley and Gingrich). Other American dignitaries were also present, including Colin Powell, a Republican who supported President Obama (oh, how I love writing that!)
The entire ceremony is completely American, even down to the music, although I have to admit that I thought Aretha Franklin did not do justice to "America." I was also not impressed with Rick Warren, who gave the invocation. He did not come across as sincere, and even, though I am a passionate and devout Lutheran, I do not think the Lord's Prayer was necessary for a Presidential inauguration. The Lord's Prayer is perfect for a Christian service, but not for an inauguration, which is supposed to be inclusive, not exclusive.
I was touched by Obama's speech because he spoke to all Americans. He -- and we-- know that these next few years will be difficult - but we also know and believe that Yes, We Can get through the turmoil and build -- and rebuild -- our way of life.
Yes, I shed tears because I am so proud of my country. Did you see the diversity in the crowd? We - the American people - are indeed a "patchwork nation."
Several factoids: this was the largest crowd ever for an Inauguration. But do you know what was the previous record: Lyndon Baines Johnson's inaugural in 1965. One member of the government, who is in the line of presidential succession, was not present for the inauguration. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was taken to a secret location, as Obama's designated successor, in case of a tragedy. This was the first a designated successor was named for the inauguration, although one Cabinet member is always missing from the annual State of the Union Speech.
The ceremony was largely over by one pm. I started walking back toward L'Enfant Plaza. I was tired, a bit cold, hungry, and ready for a nap. It took a bit of time to get down into the Metro. Crowd control at this particular station was being maintained by army personnel. Passengers were being allowed through the entrances without having to pay. The Blue line came within a few minutes. I got on and got a seat, and got home about 2:30. Kudos to Metro for being able to move so many people with few incidents.
I made a cup of coffee, opened a can of soup, got out of my many clothes, and put on something comfortable, to watch the Inaugural Parade, which is, again, uniquely American.
After a nice, lovely 5 day weekend, it is back to work tomorrow. A start of a new day, a new nation. A new president.