September 16, 2014

2013 Inauguration Journal

 

Saturday, Jan. 19, dawned with blue skies and temperatures in the 50's. DC never looked so good to Susan Lovell and John McLaughlin as they arrived to attend President Obama’s second inauguration.

PHOTO COURTESY SUSAN LOVELL

2013 Inauguration Journal

Susan and John Lovell journey to Washington, DC to join in the 2013 Inauguration event.

John and I were up at 9:30 a.m. because we needed to get to Congressman Waxman's office by noon, in order to pick up our tickets, the tickets we were lucky enough to obtain from his office simply by calling his Washington office back in September. Eternal optimist that I was about Obama's reelection, I had been making plane and hotel reservations then, before the prices tripled!

Walking through the marbled halls of Congress is always a memorable experience. It reminded us of the orderly succession of our elected officials, even with all the infighting and vitriol that's been occurring. Like many, we were delighted with our President's reelection, feeling relieved and hopeful about the next four years!

Outside again on this sunny day, John and I walked to the Folger Shakespeare Library, a lovely building near the Capitol, which not only contains original First Folios of his collected works (there are only about 200 worldwide), but other interesting historical relics displayed behind glass, along with an entire small stage on the second floor, modeled after the Old Globe, within which we were able to watch part of a rehearsal of Henry V. It was quite interesting, especially when the actors and the director began (politely) arguing about stage placements during the betrothal scene. It reminded us of what continues to go on between the President and certain members of Congress, particularly within the House of Representatives here, though maybe not as polite.

We missed the Frederick Douglas museum nearby as it was closed, so we hiked around the Capitol observing the setup for the big day on Monday—chairs being placed right below the back of the Capitol building so that it faces the Washington Monument; signs being set up for various ticket entrances, and always, the positive, anticipatory energy of others like us, all races and colors, exploring the "preproduction" for a very special day. Everything sparkled golden and white in the slanting afternoon sun,

We rounded out the afternoon by exploring the Newseum, the museum dedicated to news and the news media in all its iterations, from print to film, to TV to the internet and everything in between. One of the more impressive exhibits was the Berlin Wall section, which included not only video of original footage of the Wall being built, but it's destruction, including 12-foot sections of the Wall standing proud, with freedom graffiti painted on by brave souls in East Berlin. Another exhibit was photography and film from brave photojournalists, Pulitzer prize winners from WWII through Korea, Vietnam and up to present day, beautiful and disturbing.

We spent a hilarious Saturday evening, warmly dressed as the night became crisp and chilly at the “Stephanie Miller Sexy Liberal Show,” held at a theater in DC. She's the talk show host in the morning on KTLK, 1150 AM, 6-9 a.m., and has a kind of zany political humor, along with her guests, who often include liberal members of Congress, such as Barbara Boxer or Elizabeth Warren. The night included a special guest, Congressman Alan Grayson, who regained his Florida seat in the 2012 election. We saw him live on Bill Maher’s show four years ago, during his first time in Congress. He's a naturally humorous person and was the member who stated on the floor of the House, in a speech with his paper charts, during his first term four years ago, that the Republicans, because they were so against universal health care, basically want us to "die" if we can't pay for health insurance. That part of his speech was a "sound bite" on national television that brought him into the political spotlight because of his "telling it like it is" style. He was brought on stage, to a standing ovation, for the last 10 minutes of the show and made good points about LGBT rights and gun loopholes.

We were lucky enough to speak to him after the show when he was walking out and stopped to talk to us for about five minutes. When we asked him his insider view of the gridlock in the House by the far right who are voting against virtually every bill the Democrats introduce, his thoughts were that until the "tea partiers" et al, are voted out, it will continue to be a fight to get reasonable legislation passed, and many of these extreme right wing members are gerrymandered into safe districts where it's unlikely they'll BE voted out, at least for the foreseeable future. Not a very optimistic view, although he is certainly one of the Democratic members who is "fighting the good fight".

It's quite thrilling if one loves the political process as John and I do, to see and meet the individuals in DC who actually have a hand in making the laws that affect all of us, particularly when they embody the progressive values that benefit the whole country!

PRE-INAUGURATION AND THE BIG DAY

Day 2, Sunday, Jan. 20
—We visited the reviewing stands where the President and First Family will be viewing the Parade tomorrow; lots of tourists from many countries and ethnic group were also strolling along Pennsylvania Ave. in the cold, brisk weather. We peeked over the railing to view the White House in the distance; it was right behind the reviewing stand, across the lawn.

We decided to make it an early evening so that we could leave "bright and early" on Inauguration morning and (hopefully) beat some of the crowds.

Day 3, Monday Jan. 21, The Inauguration ceremonies—Up at 5:30 a.m., too excited to sleep. Woke John up at 7, in order to grab a taxi by 7:30. Getting to the Capitol Mall included walking about three or four long blocks, as the roads were closed off all the way around. According to the media, there has never been this degree of security. Not surprising, considering the past four years. A partly clear sky and nip in the air made me glad I dressed in three layers plus arctic jacket; it got colder during the ceremony and, along with others, we sat on the ground part of the time. The sun went behind the clouds just before the ceremony, but then, soon afterwards, and in time for the parade, the sun reappeared with a blue sky.

Amidst the festive crowds at 7:45 a.m., black, brown, white, yellow and red, all of us celebrating how an "almost democracy" (we're a constitutional republic) operates.

After tolerating a long wait to go through the security metal detectors (which weren't there when we attended four years ago), we were screened and wanded before being allowed through to the Mall through the "yellow ticket" gate. We were told that the security has been organized for the last year and a half and we were actually quite relieved, as there were almost a million people attending. The world, unfortunately, seems to have become more dangerous. However, as far as we heard, there was not one incident of violence or danger during the Inauguration, only joy and an air of festivity that our first "black" (bi-racial) president had been re-elected to a second term.

As we moved back and forth from sitting on the ground and standing, sipping our coffee, chilled but happy, the Marine band began, along with a wonderful choir of fifth graders from Tennessee, who all sounded like Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce (both of whom sang during the ceremonies). We were also delighted to hear James Taylor, "live," with his guitar, singing "America the Beautiful" right before the President's swearing in. The program was an American amalgam of music from folk, country and popular hip hop/crossover; a perfect mix of America musical styles. Poet Richard Blanco, whose poem touched all of us with his "Walt Whitman-like" stanzas, images of America and its people in many colorful phrases; it was quite beautiful, and is worth reading.

The President's speech, as we all know, was focused on climate change, immigration issues, and gay rights, topics I assume he couldn't address during his first Iiauguration as he was in reelection mode even then. It was gratifying to hear and see him addressing the reality of climate change, the importance of the immigration-oriented Dream Act, and the validity of adults being able to get married to whomever they love, regardless of gender.

All in all, it was a wonderful morning with lots of happy, smiling faces and a palpable air of relief that Obama had been re-elected!

We strolled from the Mall, cold but joyful, and found a warm restaurant with a bar and a HD TV screen where we watched most of the parade in comfort, along with welcome hot coffee and cognac. Later we had dinner in an 18th-century restaurant/pub in Georgetown, where we could almost pretend to be living 200 years ago!

It was a joy to attend President Obama's second inauguration and share in this historic event. John and I felt very grateful and will never forget this occasion.