Original post made by Melanie Bowman on Jan 19, 2009
on Jan 20, 2009 at 10:41 am
The ingauration over, I am sitting in Congressman Jerry McNerny's office after battling the exit crowds. I am regaining feeling in my toes, and still reeling from a remarkable ceremony. This morning we left for the Capitol at 8:00 am, and were shortly surrounded by enterprizing vendors selling everything Obama-- from puppets to beanies bedazzled with the new president's likeness. As we neared the Capitol, space came at a premium and I heard resounding "moooo's!" by individuals in the crowd. There was no choice of which direction to move; only enough room to be shunted in whatever direction the crowd chose. After discerning where the purple entrance was by locating signs that were far to low to see above the crowd, we quickly (and luckily) passed the gates and security to find our place just behind the seated section and directly in front of the Capitol. In the ever-resourceful American fashion, some people around us had scraped up the mulch with their shoes to form mounds with which to better their view. After an hour, the San Francisco Boys and Girls Choirs serenaded the waiting crowd with stunning performances of patriotic tunes, and the Marine Band picked up where they left off, playing beautifully, but intermittantly interrupted by groups of people starting "Obama! Obama!" and "Yes we can!" chants. Behind me are spirited inaguration goers as far as I can see-- far past the Washington Monument, and presumably the Lincoln memorial, though I can't see that far. Gradually the dots of heads turn into a million miniature American flags, a visual representation of the unity embodied in this new president. (cont.)
on Jan 20, 2009 at 11:27 am
I'm not fully aware of how long we waited mostly because the excitement in the air gave me more energy as the time passed. After a short while cheers coming from behind me signaled that motorcades of dignitaries were approaching. The House, Senate, ex-presidents, and other dignitaries were introduced, separated by historic inaugural marches also played by the Marine Band. A few people over, a man was discussing with great detail the outfits of Malia and Sasha Obama, now visible on the jumbotron screens. More introductions, then, before I expected--I had become accustomed to waiting-- Senator Dianne Feinstein gave opening remarks, and gave the podium to Dr. Rick Warren for the invocation. Despite the controversey surrounding Warren's selection, I found the words of his invocation to be timely, appropriate, and unifying. Aretha Franklin passionately sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and immediately after, Joe Biden took his oath of office. Clapping muffled by thick gloves and joyful cheers rolled back through the crowd as enormous speakers delivered the oath to the ears of those further back. Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill and Gabriella Montero played a moving arrangement by John Williams of one of my favorite songs, "Simple Gifts," which shared its theme with Obama's speech, shortly to follow. After the first line of Obama's oath, the rest was impossible to hear as a result of cacophanous cheers from all sides. What followed was an impressive Inaugural address which acknowledged the national frustration, despair, excitement, and of course, hope. I noticed that Obama made a change from JFK's "...ask what you can do for your country" to a sentiment of what can we do for our fellow human beings. The speech inspired not just a vague feeling of hope, but actual, tangible actions to better this world for every person. In the middle of the address was the palpable climax of every emotion Obama acknowledged, and after the address and enormous applause, I could feel the crowd realize that nothing else could quite compare to what they just experienced. Elizabeth Alexander's poem was hardly audible, and unfortunately not particularly well received as people embarked on their surely perilous exit. Walking to Congressman McNerney's office I could see that the Metro stations were already swamped, as people head back to their apartments, hotels, and dorm rooms, newly empowered to fulfill the goals in Obama's inaugural address.
on Jan 20, 2009 at 11:41 am
Thank you for your commentary; a vicarious thrill to hear about the events moments after you experienced them amongs the throngs of citizens. What a joyous day!