Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Angelou wrote those words sixteen years ago to celebrate Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, but I think she was a little bit ahead of her time back then. Those words beautifully sum up the feeling in Washington on inaugural weekend. I’ve never seen a city so full of smiling and happy people.
My journey started with my old friend Alicia (she’s not old, but our friendship is) who lives in DC. She was kind enough to host me and show me a wonderful time. My flight got in early Saturday morning, so after an attempted nap that was aborted by our excitement, we headed to Capitol Hill for lunch and to observe the goings-on around the Capitol. We wanted to view the preparations and feel the vibe of the city.
It was a good choice.
Of course, the Capitol looked as majestic as it ever did, but there was something special about seeing it ready to go for January 20, 2009.
But the real story that day was the people who also gathered to check out the preparations. Ever single person was smiling. Huge smiles. Joyous smiles. Loving smiles. But they all had their different ways of expressing them.
We walked up and down the National Mall that day, putting up with the cold and sore feet, enjoying the moment.
We ended up in Georgetown at Moveon.org’s Manifest Hope display of Obama-inspired art. It seemed like less of a gallery opening and more of a celebration of our country and where we are right now.
It was the most joyful gallery experience I’ve ever had. It felt more like a party than anything else.
On Sunday, we attended the We Are One concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Phenomenal. U2, Springsteen, Wonder, and others gave great performances, but I didn’t know how emotional I was about what was transpiring until the show began and a Naval band performed the “Star Spangled Banner.” I wept like a baby. It was some kind of strange catharsis for me, as I sobbed when they got to the “flag was still there” part. It seemed like such a great metaphor. Given all that the Bush administration put us through, we are still America.
We capped off the night with dinner at the home of one of Alicia’s friends who was hosting another friend of Alicia’s who popped into town from Rwanda as a guest of Nancy Pelosi’s. Odette (the friend from Rwanda) was delightful and her story of how she came to support Obama while speaking from Kigali with her son who was in Zanzibar was a great reminder about how much an Obama presidency means to the world.
Monday was a great day. We didn’t do much special but wander around the city in search of food and cocktails, but there are some pics from that day worth sharing.
Tuesday, January, 20? What can I say?
When we left Alicia’s apartment at around 8:00 AM, we were a little panicked as CNN told us the National Mall was full. We went anyway and found nice real estate on by the Washington Monument. We were cold, but we were happy.
I must have said “good morning” to 1000 strangers that day. It was simply a matter of making eye contact and reciprocating those words. It was a joyful crowd.
When I think about the inauguration, all I can think is that change happened because of us. We voted, we donated, we blogged, we canvassed, we spoke to our families and neighbors. We were the catalysts behind this beautiful moment.
President Obama will disappoint us. He’s human. But this is a moment that we will hold on to forever. We made change happen.