Saturday, January 24, 2009


I've been remiss to not update my blog since my return from the inauguration, but better later than never.

It's really hard for me to conceptualize my weekend in Washington, D.C., half because it was one of the most powerful things I have ever been a part of and half because I'm not sure if I've been fully able to realize the magnitude of my experience. Like wine, I'm assuming it will only get better with age.

From what I am able to realize now, I see right now as truly the beginning of a new era. That might sound like a naive, altruistic statement at first glance, but I make it with a reservation of reality.

Barack Obama is a brilliant man, with great ideas and visions to restore America's place in the world and in our hearts, although I recognize that he is just a man, not the Messiah or immune to the corruption and pressure of politics. Obama is going to have to make hard decisions, which will most likely not be to the liking of all Americans, but I hope he is able to maintain his character and overall mission to make America the place of life, liberty and happiness once again.

But, when I say that the tide has changed for us, I do not solely credit Obama for change. I feel the real change is with the people, shown by the sincere, warm smiles exchanged by strangers in passing or felt by the American pride that hangs in the air.

On the day of Obama's inauguration, I woke up at 5 a.m., layered myself with long-sleeved shirts and thermal pants and I walked for an hour and a half in well-below-freezing temperatures to stand in a cramped crowd of people for an additional three hours. I did not even feel the cold and I did not want to find the nearest warm store for refuge. Don't read this as, "Wow, she walked a lot and had to be so uncomfortable, yet she pulled through and braved the cold just to be a part of history." It was not like that, to be honest. The excitement, the comradery of standing amongst millions of other Americans, and visitors, for the collective celebration of change was truly motivating.

Television anchors and reporters may have highlighted how cold and miserable the crowds must have been to stand in long lines or how some people, with tickets to boot, missed the ceremony all together because they were being held in an underground tunnel. I even was in one of those dreaded clusterlines at 3rd street trying to get to the National Mall.

The police did not know whether the line and security checkpoint would grant people access to the National Mall (where Josh and I wanted to go) or the parade route (which would mean standing until 2:30 in the afternoon, most likely missing the oath, etc. as well as just seeing the president drive pass; no thanks). Around 9, Josh and I decided that we were too far back in the line to even get through the checkpoint before the procession's start at 11; the worst would have been to be stuck in the middle of a random street and miss the whole thing.

So, we walked over to Clyde's at Gallery Place, saddled up to a pair of stools at the second-floor's bar and watched the whole thing on a HD flatscreen tuned to CNN, with a Bloody Mary in hand and packed house standing behind us. People were cheering and clapping; crying and praying. It was like being on the Mall, only it was warm and I had the best seat in the house.

There was a feeling of collective happiness, like "we did it; I can't believe we all actually did this."

So I think the change really is with the people, banding together to help others for the common, collective good of the country.

When I went to the free "We Are One" the Sunday before the inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial, I turned around at one point to say something to my friend Marcus Hadley during the show. When I did, I found that Marcus and his dad had both hoisted two little girls in their arms, so they could see Obama deliver his speech.

At the end of the concert, I told Marcus and his dad that it was so nice of them to have done that for those girls.

Mr. Hadley said, "They just needed to see that."


Catherine said...

this entry was so worth the wait. wonderful to read it through your eyes. please write a book of essays like this.

Rick said...

"I feel the real change is with the people, shown by the sincere, warm smiles exchanged by strangers in passing or felt by the American pride that hangs in the air."

That was my impression watching from home. Thanks for the first person view, and well said, Paige.