Just got back on Thursday from Washington D.C. where Deana and I attended Barack Obama's swearing in as the 44th President of the United States.
We started our first full day in D.C. on Monday, picking up our will call tickets for the Southern Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center, then getting some breakfast in Chinatown. After a short walk around we headed for the Kennedy Center, where Aretha Franklin was going to give a free concert. On the way out of the subway station we bumped into a group of guys who had created and were selling their own Barack Obama card game . They were cartoonists also, They genuinely seemed like a nice group of guys, and it was nice meeting people who had similar interests. They have a cool website, with a great little blog that chronicles their inaugural experience. Proceeds from the game helps at risk children, and supplies are limited, so order your copy today!
We got to the Kennedy Center at about 1pm. Although tickets weren't supposed to be available til 4pm, we didn't want to miss a chance at those tickets. Unfortunately, people had been lining up since 7:00am that morning and we had already missed our opportunity for live tickets and had to settle for overflow tickets. It was an friendly group of folks and and we got to know the people waiting in line with us. The mood was surprisingly upbeat considering folks had been waiting for hours in the cold ( 27 degrees! ). At one point, some guy literal stood up on a soapbox and started preaching to the crowd with some angry political rhetoric. But the crowd wasn't having it. They wanted this week to be about celebration. There was plenty of time for protest another day, but the crowd wanted to keep the mood upbeat. After a few attempts by some by telling him to "shut up", a group of girls decided to drown him out by singing "This Little Light of Mine". Others joined in, completely drowning him out. He eventually walked away and moved farther down the line. Not surprisingly, he was met with the exact same response and eventually gave up!
The next day we got up at 6am ( with little sleep I might add ) for the swearing-in ceremony. Despite the early hour, the subway was completely packed. By the time we arrived at L'Enfant Station, the people were wall to wall. If you've ever seen L'Enfant Plaza Station, you know that it's a huge station, but we subway riders were packed in from one end of the station to the other like sardines. It was actually a pretty dangerous situation. There really was way too many people in that station, and people could have easily been trampled to death, but the crowd looked out for one another, and there was a pretty positive vibe throughout the place. Spontaneous chants of "OBAMA" and "YES WE CAN!" broke out, lifting the spirit of the crowd. A group of Brazilian girls sang some songs they had made up for the occasion. The mood made a potentially bad situation, a good one. This was a good thing too, as the journey from the subway to the street took an hour and half, where it would normally take 3 minutes to walk across.
Once we got on the street, it was obvious that there was no preparation for a crowd of that size. Things got a bit confused and chaotic at times, but we finally made it to Capitol Mall. We weren't able to get into the closer ticketed section, but all things considered, I think we got a pretty good positioning. We had a good view of one of the big screens, although the actual capitol was tiny from our vantage point. We were pretty much dead center of the mall, a few block lengths in front of the Washington Monument. But it really didn't matter. We were all witnessing history and a new beginning after 8 years of suffering through one of the worst presidencies in recent memory. There was a shared feeling of optimism and patriotism. It was a very moving moment.
Later that night we went to the Southern Inaugural Ball. Neither Deana nor I are from the South, but they were the only tickets still available. We had a great time, as both Joe and Jill Biden, and the President and first Lady made an appearance.
The next day we slept in and later went to the Portrait Gallery to see the original art of Sheperd Fairey's ubiquitous "Hope" poster. We also went to the Hall of Presidents to see portraits of all the U.S. presidents. There was also a show showing portraits of the vice-presidents. I was pleasantly surprised to see the work of Anders Zorn, Norman Rockwell, Pat Oliphant, Jack Davis, and Everett Raymond Kinstler represented.