52 States in 8 Months

01/20/09: Obama’s inauguration ceremony

Posted in Inauguration trip by Ulf on March 17, 2009

The morning of January 20th, 2009, began with a very decisive question: Would we be able to get onto the Metro train to go from Arlington, VA, to Washington, DC? Or would the Metro be crowded since many people used the park-and-ride-facilities near DC? It’s only a distance of 2 or 3 miles from Arlington to DC, but that could be a lot in out time schedule… Luckily, the Metro turned out to be really empty at about 8am:

From now on, only very little could go wrong. We made it to Washington DC downtown on Inauguration Day 2009! We were at the north end of the map. The next question was where to go. Boris and Daniel decided look for a good spot where they could see the presidential parade. They headed directly down to Pennsylvania Avenue, the road between the Capitol and the White House.
Alex and I wanted to join the masses on the National Mall to become eyewitnesses of the inauguration itself. Our destination was the large green area…
It turned out that many roads were closed. And not all barriers were as easy to overcome as these buses ;-). And look at the streets! We were absolutely not the only visitors to go to the National Mall!

At the same time, Rebekka already made it onto the Mall. She is a doctoral law student from Berlin who was also new to DC. Just after 9am when Alex and I were still walking through downtown DC, she already entered the Mall. At about 9:30, she was standing next to Washington Monument and had a clear view to the capitol:

Although I haven’t been there with Rebekka, I really enjoyed seeing her pictures. Seems like she met many interesting people while she waited for the ceremony to begin. Does anyone recognize which card game they play? All players have a different number of cards, I would guess between three and eleven cards. My first guess was Asshole, but that’s not very likely since the player in the front didn’t put his two tens next to each other. And someone with 11 cards on his deck wouldn’t have an ace ;-)

At roughly 10am, Alex and I also made it to the mall. It took us just two hours from Arlington to this place. Maybe we should have just walked all the way ;-). Anyway, we had a quick visit at the portable toilets — there were enough of them and they were clean, unbelievable! — and then also went to the monument.

About an hour after Rebekka had been somewhere between the monument itself and its ticket booth, we also arrived at the same place. So, you might ask yourself if we saw her? Well, I think so. She must be somewhere on the following picture ;-). Do you see her black hat?

At the same time our third group was still on its way to Pennsylvania Avenue. It was roughly 10am when they saw the security check, and after another hour they finally made it to the parade track (I hope I didn’t screw it up when I calculated some offset values for the timestamps of their pictures). Boris and Daniel really found a great place to see the parade! They were standing right across from the Ronald Reagan Building. I wouldn’t have believed that they could get this close to the route itself!

Now, since we all reached our observation points, the show could start. You’ll find the detailed plot on Wikipedia. All I remember is that there were many different prayers (they had an invocation and a benediction, but what is the difference?). And there was much music. One thing that made Alex and me laugh was a sentence from Rick Warren about Obama’s family, “… and his daughters Malia and *tiny_pause* Sasha”. We both thought … “Sasha? WTF, that must be a son and not a daughter!”. But it turned out that Mr Warren was right, Natasha Obama is called Sasha. Stupid us, we didn’t know the upcoming first family!
Seriously, we should have known that Rick Warren was right. If you’re standing up there, with more than a million people in front of you and something between 50 and 100 million people in front of their TV sets, you will have double- and triple-checked your words. You simply don’t do any mistakes in such a situation. Keep this in mind.

At 12 o’clock on this day, Bush’s term officially ended. From that moment on, America didn’t have a president anymore (same applies to former vice president Cheney). That’s not so good, therefore “Senator Biden” and “Senator Obama” were sworn in a few minutes after noon. They became “Vice President Biden” and “President Obama”.

Alex was so kind to record these two events. It’s not that easy to hear the voice of Biden, Obama and justices Roberts and Stevens. In fact, while Obama was talking, everybody was absolutely silent. Nobody did a step, nobody was coughing. I could hear the chattering of the flags around the monument behind us.

The inauguration of the first Delawarian to be a Vice President was successful! Yes, we did it! But have you noticed something in Obama’s inauguration? These were the words:

Roberts: I, Barack Hussein Obama …
Obama: I, Barack …
Roberts: … do solemnly swear …
Obama: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear …
Roberts: … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully …
Obama: … that I will execute …
Roberts: … the off — faithfully the pres — the office of president of the United States …
Obama (at the same time): … the office of president of the United States faithfully …

second_oath_of_office_of_barack_obamaThat was not quite what the constitution required Obama to say. Guess what? I went all the way to DC and I didn’t even see the real inauguration! A day later they did the whole thing again somewhere in the White House. Obviously, they wanted to make sure that no stupid American lawyer would use this as a reason to impeach the government…

And all just because some chief justice who was appointed by a non-elected president screwed up his words. Args. Do you still remember what I said earlier? About verbal errors in front of millions of viewers? Well… ;-)

So, after not having seen the real inauguration, we decided to walk away. So did most of the others. It was hard to believe how many more attendants were behind the monument. I thought Alex and I would have been late arrivals!

However, Rebekka was once again faster then the two of us. She was already heading north long before we got off the Mall.

However, our way also had a few more obstacles than hers. Buses tried to stop us, and there were signs alerting us about other pedestrians ahead. And we had the chance to look at the inside of a HMMWV :-). Please look at the steering-wheel lock! Haha!

A quick note on these white buses. There was not just one bus. Maybe twenty or thirty of them were lined up, not letting anybody through. Well, at one point, one bus driver didn’t immediately catch up when the bus in front of him started moving. So there was a little gab — and many people rushed towards it. After the first pedestrians were in front of him, the the bus driver had no chance to start moving at all… and we pedestrians had our gap to cross the road :-).

In the morning, Rebekka took some more interesting pictures which I didn’t manage to fit into the text. There were a lot of activities in the morning. Some Gitmo protestants, and free “Snacks for Change” :-) :-) :-).
(Yes, it looks empty, but Rebekka got some).

inauguration_2009-01-20_08-58-28_rebekka inauguration_2009-01-20_09-14-14_rebekka

In the next “Inauguration Day” blog post, I’ll tell you about the Presidential Parade.


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