Thursday, January 22, 2009
A New Era
One of the things I love most about our nation's democracy is how we're able to transition power without riots starting. The outgoing leader doesn't simply declare the election results illegal and seize control of the government with martial law. It's peaceful and jubilant, with a lot of pomp and circumstance.
I've been living in DC off and on for the past 9 years and have been here during the last 3 inaugurations. Maybe it was the historic nature of swearing in the first African-American president, but this one was entirely different from the previous two.
The closest thing I witnessed to a protest (let alone a riot) was a few peoplle carrying signs proclaiming that the rest of us were going to Hell unless we repented and some vegans who were passing out literature stating that to mark this historic era of change, President Obama (wow, that's fun to say!) should have banned all meat from the inaugural festivities.
During the first Bush inauguration, however, the law firm I worked at had thrown a party for their clients to watch the parade from their offices (right smack dab in the middle of the parade route at 8th and Pennsylvania), and as an employee, I was expected to attend, which meant that I had to cross the picket line of at least two causes I supported. It made me feel sad to do that, but as a student of politics and history, I did want to be there (even if I hadn't voted for the guy).
But at least those protestors were peaceful. What I witnessed from the 5th floor office of my boss was decidedly not. You see, a group of anarchists had decided to rip down the American flag from the Naval Memorial and replace it with a black flag. Almost within seconds, they were descended upon by a swarm of police in riot gear who started beating them down to the ground in submission with nightsticks.
So needless to say, I'm thrilled that this year's experience was the exact opposite.
As a writer, I rarely find myself without words adequate to express my emotions, but still two days later, I must admit to this inability this time. Just being there on the Mall or walking around downtown, I was faced with an electricity from the crowd that was stirring. And it wasn't just Democrats, either. I met plenty of Republicans who had not voted for President Obama (still get excited when calling him that!), but who wanted to be there to witness history.
It's fitting that the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States occured the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 80th birthday. I only wish he had lived to see it because it truly was the realization of his dream.
Race relations in our country are far from perfect, but I'm truly hopeful that we will one day reach a point when we really are colorblind. This is a remarkable step closer to that day.
OK, enough sentimentalism. Let's get to the pictures!
Military presence was high, as security was stepped up.
We got to Sunday's concert at the Lincoln Memorial around noon-ish (for a 2:30 pm start time), but many people had been there since 6 am. Considering that it was bitter cold, I'm glad we waited and got there a little bit later, even if it meant that we only got as far forward as the very front of the reflecting pool. Of course, there were still probably at least 400,000 people behind us (all the way past the Washington Monument!), so we got fairly far forward, considering.
This is how far back we were when we first arrived. Fortunately two of our friends had gotten there earlier so we decided to try to go find them and got a lot father forward. Well, hey, what else were we going to do during a 2-hour wait, if not try to find our friends???
Some people decided to climb trees to listen to their favorite performing artists. It was the first time I've ever seen U2 or James Taylor live, and it was awesome!
Walking around, exploring the crowds.
MSNBC...the place for politics!
Mike Barnicle leaves the mobile news room. It was way too cold out to stay to try to watch "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" taped. So we watched it in the comfort of our living room instead.
Soledad O'Brien takes photos of the crowd during a commercial break from CNN.
I get my 15 seconds of fame on the local NBC News and when shown a tiny lunch sack and told that was as large of a bag as they would be allowing along the parade route and then asked what I would bring in it if I went, I said Chapstick (because it was so cold) and an ID. Oooh, brilliant, Amanda! In my defense, it was freakin' freezing and my brain froze.
Christina and I are klassy in our boots with ballgowns on the Metro!
I'm taking you inside an inaugural ball now. It's kinda like prom, only you can drink legally and there are random secret service agents hanging around.
Mr. Brice and I, all dressed up!
Christina shows off the only two Donkey cookies we could find. On most dessert trays, there were only Elephants left.