January 20, 2009

Report from the swearing-in ceremony

It's been a long, exhausting day, so this is a short report. But here's a few things we saw:

1. The crowd was huge. Everywhere we went today was packed with people. The Metro stations, the streets, the National Mall ... everywhere. From what we're hearing, no president has ever turned out a crowd like this for an inauguration. That makes point No. 2 even more impressive ...

2. No one got hurt. No one got arrested. Police and ambulances were cruising everywhere, but there no serious incidents. Given the sense of chaos, particularly on the streets, that's an impressive accomplishment for Washington DC.

Jumbotron held their attention during the swearing-in

3. Tickets don't mean much. We had tickets to stand just behind the reflecting pool outside of the Capitol building, but that filled up long before we got there. There are some reports that people with tickets got in line at 6 a.m. and were turned away. We left at 7:45 a.m. and got standing room spots just north of the Washington Memorial with an obstructed view of a jumbotron. It was still worth being part of the moment, but a little disappointing that we ended up so far back. Then again, with a million people in town, it's not a big surprise plans went awry.

4. The whole ceremony was historic. The crowd was excited and happy, everyone hugged and cheered as Obama took his oath, and the speech landed with a gravitas that underscored the dire situation our nation faces. From my perspective, Obama was moving past the celebration of being the first African-American president, and focusing on being president. The truth is he's not going to profoundly change the US or the world in a few months, even years. Everyone is expecting a lot from him, so he's bracing people for the reality that he won't live up to expectations.

5. The crowd booed President George W. Bush and Sen. Joe Lieberman. They cheered everyone else. The biggest cheers, in descending order:

1. Barack Obama
2. Michelle Obama and the girls
3. Bill and Hillary Clinton
4. Joe Biden
5. Oprah

6. Aretha Franklin was cool, Yo Yo Ma boring. Pastor Rick Warren was bizarre, particuarly pronouncing Sasha and Malia's names.


  1. At first I was worried by your knee-jerk defeatism regarding our new president, but then you pronounced "Yo Yo Ma boring" and I realized that because of the elevated inaugural platform, some of the finer points must have been going right over your head.

    Thanks very much for these reports, though. They have certainly added a local flavor to the event.

  2. Rev John Brown1/21/2009 7:16 AM

    The Son of God should rule for 40 years!
    Let Him Bless and Heal You!!
    No more Elections!
    No Hate Speech! Only God's Media will be allowed to exist!!
    The Son of God will pay your bills by taking from the rich. His blessed Government will take over the Devil Spawn companies!

    All Hail The Son of God!!

  3. Trust me, Mark. After standing for four hours shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of people in 25-degree weather (20 as the shadow of the Washington Monument hit us), waiting for Obama to take his oath, Yo Yo Ma was a bit underwhelming. The sound was lousy, the crowd was antsy and, frankly, the rendition of Simple Gifts just wasn't that profound.

    As for the speech, it wasn't knee-jerk defeatism. Obama simply didn't deliver a stirring address. He's certainly capable, but it wasn't the right moment for it. His job is to prepare the nation for a difficult two years, so he'll have at least two years as president to effect change. In essence, he's asking the people to give him some time. If people judge him on the first 100 days, or even year, it's going to be a dismal report card filled with a soaring unemployment rate, soaring debt and, likely, no end to the Iraq war.

    A celebratory tone would have been like saying they had reached the end of the road, instead of just starting the journey. Obama knows he won't be an effective president unless he moves past the label of "first African-American president." His inauguration addresss was his first step past that label.

  4. Rev James Brown1/21/2009 11:30 AM

    But Dustin during His campaign he promised so much.
    An end NOW to the War in Iraq
    Talking to Iran without preconditions (that's on tape) who cares if they arm Hamas or publicly say they want to put Israel in a sea of fire
    Tax the evil rich give the money to the poor. (Robin Hood or even Huey Long)
    Force companies to hire more workers even if they have no job skills. Force companies to return to the USA.
    Free Heath Care

    This is the Son of God your talking about

    You mean the Son of God might have been playing politics?

  5. In a sea of people waiting for hours to see the next president get sworn in, where were the porta potties located? Gosh, the lines had to be long with that many people. I preferred the warmth and comfort of my home and front row TV view of the event.