Reminiscing about President Obama’s First Inauguration
America had just elected President Barack Obama to his first term as president in 2009 when I started my very first gig on Capitol Hill. Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) had just hired me on his press team and I felt like I had won the lottery. It was at a time when Republican jobs were hard to come by in Washington, D.C. Democrats were in power in both houses of Congress and President Bush was on his way out of the White House. To say I felt lucky, and blessed (very, very blessed), is an understatement.
It just so happened that Sen. Bennett was also the Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee at the time. That’s the committee that oversees all the planning for the swearing-in ceremonies at the Inauguration. Because of this, I realized that everyone on his staff probably had dibs on Inauguration tickets. Since I was the new kid in the office, I had already decided I would be perfectly fine not going. As if they’d actually give their newest employee a ticket. Turns out, I didn’t know my new co-workers very well, because they were some of the most generous and kind people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Not only did they give me a ticket, but they graciously offered tickets for my entire family.
So, of course we went. How could you not? Never mind that we were all Republicans and that none of us voted for him. When you get tickets to an inauguration, you go. The journey getting there that morning was half the adventure of it all. We joined the more than 1.8 million people who also attended the inauguration that day. The Metro (D.C.’s subway system) was beyond capacity, so much that I wasn’t even sure anyone would make it to the Capitol on time for the ceremony. I’ve never seen public transit so bursting at the seems with people. Top off the experience with frigid 28 degree weather (which, if you live on the east coast, you know the humidity makes it feel much colder), and really, so far I’m not painting much of an enjoyable picture.
There’s something, though, about being surrounded by other patriotic Americans and witnessing something so incredible that you forget you can’t feel most of your body: the peaceful transfer of power in the most powerful country in the world is a sight to see. I entered the event as a patriotic American. But when I left it, my patriotism was bursting at the seams.
“Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents. So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans.”
I’m looking forward to watching another patriotic ceremony take place tomorrow where the President-elect and Vice President-elect will take their oaths of office. Whether or not you voted for Donald Trump, I hope you’ll agree that we’re all blessed (very, very blessed) to live in a land where there’s a peaceful transfer of power every four to eight years, where we have the right to speak our minds and let our voices be heard. Whether we speak in favor or opposition, there’s an equal right to both. It’s a beautiful thing.
Former news reporter and Capitol Hill press guru, wife, mom, and pastry addict.