We dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30, still tired, but ready to start our day. After a quick breakfast at Panera courtesy of Ms. Palmer and Mr. Miller, we arrived outside of the National Mall. Unfortunately, due to heightened security measures, our bus was not permitted near any government buildings, so our group trekked along the Reflecting Pool, past the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, and finally into the crowd of almost one million people standing in front of the Capitol waiting for the inauguration. Walking towards the National Mall, hundreds of volunteers, all wearing matching red hats, lined the sides of the walkway. They cheered, yelling “Welcome!” and “Good Morning!” Every second, more people flooded the area. Parts that were sparsely populated at 8:30 A.M. were packed shoulder to shoulder an hour later. Because we arrived with almost two hours to spare before the ceremony itself, we had ample opportunity to interview those at the inauguration.
While it was clear that attendees came from all parts of the country, most shared a common trait: they love our country and the opportunities it gave them. Paul, a Vietnam War veteran from Michigan, came to the inauguration solely to support the president, saying, “Whoever he is, we have to back the commander in chief; that’s the main thing I learned when serving in Vietnam.” Jessica, an African-American woman from Texas, chose to come because she felt that every American citizen should partake in a presidential inauguration at some point in their lives, commenting that the inauguration is, “a very historic event, not only for those of African-American descent, but for everyone to come and express their support.” Others, however, had slightly unusual reasons for watching the president’s inauguration. Pat, a blonde-haired woman wearing red, white, and blue furry legwarmers (pictured below), said that she wanted to make sure that the inauguration was actually occurring. “I’ve heard that a lot of these public events don’t actually happen in real life,” she said. “For example, some people say that the Macy’s Day was digitized a few times in the past. I went to that too.”
All of the people we spoke to were generally hopeful for President Obama’s second term, but had different issues they wished to be addressed. Barb, who had been to Obama’s first inauguration, wished that social security would remain and that term limits would be set for senators and Supreme Court justices. Billie, a self-proclaimed “huge” Obama supporter, hoped that the stalemate in Congress will be broken and that “they will really do something this time”. She talked passionately about the economy, specifically how “the middle class should not carry the burden for the whole country” and sought more accountability from America’s wealthiest citizens. Tony, who had travelled from Illinois, looked forward to stricter gun control in the wake of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut shooting.
The inauguration ceremony itself was very tasteful, if a bit long for those braving the cold in the crowd. Following the patriotic theme of the day, the president’s address was very patriotic. He quoted historical American documents, using common phrases that all could relate to. He spoke of a great future for our great country, and how he hopes to provide it to us in his next term. While general, the speech was uplifting and inspirational. Addressing specific issues was not Obama’s job, at least not today. To conclude, Beyoncé performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem which awed all of the flag-waving audience members.
Tomorrow, we conclude our final day of activity with the Holocaust Museum and Arlington. Look forward to our update then!