A WV college grad’s take on Obama’s inauguration
Life changing events: A lot come unexpectedly. Others have been planned years in advance. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell if it’s the planning, the surprise, or just a current mentality that brings the transformation.
Wherever the truth may be in that philosophy, it will undoubtedly bring forth a new state of mind. Mine arrived shortly after noon, on Jan. 20. I was standing in a crowd of roughly 2 million, braving Nordic wind gusts, knowing I would be there for at least 12 more hours. Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America, and I invited myself to this illustrious event over a game of beer pong, just two days before.
You see, being freshly graduated from college brings forth a set of rather attractive benefits. In this pleasant purgatory between college and professional life, there is a blissful absence of any real responsibility, purpose, or motivation. Considering our extreme economic crisis, a record high unemployment rate, and my top-notch career selection in advertising, full advantage of said purgatory was taken. It really, truly was one of the best decisions of my life. Being in a standstill state of mind allowed me to watch my country move forward. It wasn’t just an inauguration; it was a celebration for everyone. Every race. Every creed. Every citizen. Jan. 20 marked a step in the right direction, and seeing it first hand assured me that we were all taking it together. I have the fist bumps to prove it.
Everyone has a different version of history, and America has definitely had a fair share of CNN/MSNBC/ABC coverage of Obama’s inauguration. This account is a mere flash of the big day from an extremely poor, 22 year old college graduate, who has hope coming out of her ass for her country, and its new state of mind.
After asking a relative stranger if I could join him in his travels to Washington D.C., and made an almost frighteningly fast phone call to another friend, who was planning the trip, I was set. The plan was in motion; I was to go to the inauguration with two strangers, which, if you ask me, is all part of the fun. That is until I find a sack of lime and an axe in the trunk of the car, but I digress.
After driving all night on a steady IV drip of Red Bull, we arrived at the house of J Sean, a post-fraternity nest nursing at least six brothers who were kind enough to lend their plethora of couches. Sleeping only enough to not pass out at the Washington Monument, we gathered ourselves and took the metro into the city.
Warmth was not the first word that comes to mind on a balmy 20-degree D.C. evening, but it was surprisingly the first thing felt as we emerged on the streets. The city was already buzzing, a feeling comparable to Times Square on News Years Eve. Lining the inaugural parade route already were news crews, spectators much like ourselves taking in the night, locals trying to give the best deal on political memorabilia, street vendors, performers, and freestyle rappers. While there was a steady flow of police traffic, everyone was uncannily optimistic, and it rubbed off quickly.
We outlined the city that night. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Washington Monument, through the first nocturnal Easter egg hunt (Later on I was told these were city volunteers, picking up litter from the high volumes of people, but I think not), down to the Lincoln memorial.
There were hoards of people everywhere already. And at the end of a very long first night, I didn’t care that my hands were numb, or that there was a good chance of blood filling my shoes from our expedition, the city bursting at the seams with people filled with exhilaration. It was like finding the center of the world on complete accident, and it was hard to tell just how much more energized the American people could get by Tuesday.
Monday came and went far too slowly, but we did meet even more people who had come from across the country to see Obama be sworn in. We talked to college kids from Chicago, a retired teacher from Georgia, and a group from Canada who was finally proud to be physically attached to our previously questionable purple mountains of majesty. However, we did meet Will. I. Am. (Yes, the guy from the Black Eyed Peas) outside of the Smithsonian, and he assured us, Yes, we actually can.
It’s 4:15 a.m. After two days of virtually no sleep and embarrassingly high amounts of excitement, our trio resembled a foppish group of toddlers who have tried desperately to dress themselves for Santa on Christmas. We didn’t care; Barack would be cool with it. Sadly, we weren’t the most excited people on the train. Someone actually passed out on the way into the capitol. Show off.
By 5 a.m. we were among herds of really, really excited cattle, and slipped our way into the National Mall with a tour group, guided by men and women in red jumpsuits. There was a Bonnarific atmosphere, by which I do not mean concerts and marijuana, but rather an unbreakable spirit of comradery. And in those few square miles of land inside the National Mall represented a microcosm of the American people. Diverse. Hopeful. Energetic. Together.
It was the very first time I felt that no matter the color of anyone’s skin, we as an American population were willing to work together. In that piece of land outside the capitol building were people from across the country and the world. Every race, all calm and collected, and eternally excited for the next couple of hours.
Sure, we were numb, frozen to the core, and the steam rising from the breath of 2 million looked not unlike a 420 festival. We waited together, sharing stories of how we got there, listening to celebrity speeches until the moment came. Aretha sang, we bowed our heads for a moment, and rose them to a new President. The chants of “OBAMA!” were deafening around us, and we were three among a sea of waving American flags. Sadly, we were the only three people of 2 million who cheered like fools for John Williams (Emperial March. come on, people!) But that didn’t matter. We had just witnessed history, and it was worth it all. For the first time, optimism filled the hearts of our population instead of shame and doubt.
For the first time, I felt that there was hope in a leader, and that a new state of mind from a group of people is more important and has more impact than any piece of legislation could ever have. I felt like my campaigning had mattered after all. For a couple of days in my very young history, I felt hope in a way I’ve never felt in my heart. I felt as if I was a part of something that mattered, a witness to world history, a participant in change. On Jan. 20, I felt hope that my generation isn’t lost to apathy and X Box, but that we have a stake in our country, and a leader willing to listen.
What will happen in the next four years is hard to tell. But it only took a few short days to change my state of mind. So much for the planning philosophy behind life changing events.