Now safely inside and thawed (minus about seven layers of clothing) I’ve been listening to NPR, where the consensus seems to be that the speech was dark. But I found it strangely hopeful. After all, the revolutionary warriors made it through the icy waters, the soldiers whispering from Arlington are calling a nation to serve “something larger than themselves.” I find these encouraging words for dark times. But on the metro line waiting to leave the Capitol area, the emotional highlight of the day seems to have been the words “so help me God.” As one eight-year-old told me, on her way to the parade, “I liked it when he read the Bible.”
Countless hours to arrive in Washington, six hours in sub-freezing temperatures, and some folks with tickets couldn’t even get in after the blue gate was shut down. Then it was a two-hour line just to get in to the Capital South metro station. Did it matter? Nope. A family from Rochdale Village, Queens, had a Plan B — they went to Cong. Gregory Meeks’s office in the Raeburn House Office Building — heated, with snacks — and watched it on TV. A young man from Scranton slipped in by walking around the crowd, but his friends were not so lucky. One woman from Philadelphia was relegated to the streets, far from the jumbotrons, where she clung to the event by listening to the cheers for the mall. She didn’t care, either. “We came a long way to get here,” she explained. “Oh,” I asked “Where are you from?” “No,” she corrected, “I mean a long way, in years.”
Two rows from the band, which is right in front of the podium. Dressed in four layers, rode a (full) metro at 4:30 a.m. By 4:45 a.m. the mall was filling with a crowd that just wanted to be a part of history — I met people from Alabama, Indiana, California, red states, blue states, the United States. People that just decided to come and people that bought tickets a year ago. They wanted to be part of something larger, and today they are.
Beginning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern
11:00 a.m. Pacific
Musical selections (The United States Marine Band)
9:30 a.m. Eastern
6:30 a.m. Pacific
Official video stream begins
11:00 a.m. Eastern
8:00 a.m. Pacific
Official audio stream begins
11:30 a.m. Eastern
8:30 a.m. Pacific
Takeaway Live Blog with John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji
Approx. 11:30 a.m. Eastern
8:30 a.m. Pacific
Call to Order (Sen. Dianne Feinstein), Invocation (Rick Warren), Music (Aretha Franklin)
Approx. 11:45 a.m. Eastern
8:45 a.m. Pacific
Vice President-elect Joe Biden receives oath of office (Associate Justice John Paul Stevens), music (John Williams (composer/arranger), Itzhak Perlman (Violin), Yo-Yo Ma (Cello), Gabriela Montero (Piano), Anthony McGill (Clarinet))
Approx. 11:56 a.m. Eastern
8:56 a.m. Pacific
President-elect Barack Obama receives oath of office (Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts)
Approx. 12:01 p.m. Eastern
9:01 a.m. Pacific
President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address (expected to last about 20 minutes)
Poem (Elizabeth Alexander), Benediction (Rev. Joseph Lowery), the National Anthem (The United States Navy Band "Sea Chanters")
President Barack Obama escorts outgoing president George W. Bush and outgoing vice president Dick Cheney to a departure ceremony
Approx. 1:05 p.m. Eastern
10:05 a.m. Pacific
President Barack Obama attends an Inaugural luncheon
Approx. 1:25 p.m. Eastern
10:25 a.m. Pacific
Outgoing president George W. Bush speaks at Andrews Air Force Base
Approx. 2:20 p.m. Eastern
11:20 a.m. Pacific
President Barack Obama reviews the troops, the Inaugural Parade begins
Hours before Barack Obama was to take the oath of office, a CD of his speeches set to techno music blared out of a boom box sitting on a pile of T-shirts. "How much for the Shepard Fairey watch?" said a customer, leaning over the sidewalk table full of Obama merchandise. The greatness and gravity of the presidency, conjured up today under the Capitol dome, will sit starkly against the moat of junk that has never been seen before for a president.
Obama's popularity and personality have inspired designers and hawkers to take his rock star status to new marketing heights. The new president's smiling face sits behind the hands of clocks. A towel features the former senator dunking a basketball in a Superman suit, with the scoreboard reading "1:20:09." Regular campaign buttons that would have satisfied collectors and politicos of past ages are now neon, handmade and outfitted with glowing backlights.
Norris Gibson knew this would be big business eighteen months ago. "Win or lose, he was going to be a legend," he says. On Monday, he was busily manning tables outside Union Station that are extension of his Web site, myobamashop.com ("The New Presidential Obama Hoodies and Long Sleeves are now available!") He's created more than 150 designs with Obama's likeness, and boasts that he was the first to celebrate the young president using rhinestones on clothing. Caps and ski caps with "OBAMA" in white plastic stones are selling for $12; T-shirts at his stand go for $26.99. The devoted throng stood two or three deep, calling out sizes and styles, while a CD switched to a Gospel-backed version of Obama's Grant Park victory speech.
Just outside the Greyhound Bus Terminal, Darin White was pushing sequined T-shirts for $45. "I think there will be enough folk here that there will be nice sales all across the city. It'll be a great Obama Day," he said, further reinforcing his brand.
President Obama gives the inaugural address today. No doubt it will be a soaring narrative that will have interwoven into it concepts of unity, agency, responsibility, hope, the promise of this great nation, a collective destiny, hard work, et cetera. And the speech will matter. It will be the answer to a Dream for many, and for others, as poet Saul Williams has expressed; it will have been "such a long way to travel just to reach the beginning."
It’s getting crowded now in DC. The Metro is beginning to fill, and downtown streets are in gridlock. But who cares? Everyone is talking to everyone else: families, tourists, military people, young guys with lip rings– swapping stories of how they got here, whether or not they got tickets, how they’re getting around. Somehow, beneath all those unfashionable layers, people are getting genuinely warm.