The Presidential Inauguration represents an American ritual shrouded in historical significance and is emblematic of the United States’ continued efforts to maintain a peaceful transition of government power.
Every four years, on January 20, political junkies, campaign staffers, partisan faithfuls, and average Americans descend on the nation’s capital for a manic weekend of celebratory events and commemorative activities, all of which serve to remind attendees that he or she has a hand in shaping the history of this country. Though the oath of office is mandated by the Constitution as simply a procedural guarantee of the President-elect’s willingness to faithfully lead the country, the swearing-in ceremony and the accompanying Inaugural events have become regal displays seen by millions of citizens.
One may liken the swearing-in of the U.S. President to an American rendition of the royal coronation of the British monarch, though certainly matching only in significance (doubtless would be the public outrage had President Obama been adorned with a jeweled crown and transported in a gold-rimmed carriage).
Having had the pleasure of working on the President’s reelection campaign last year, I was one of those fortunate enough to receive an invitation to attend the Inauguration ceremonies in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2013.
With my invitation in hand, I headed out in the early hours of Friday, January 18 with fellow campaign staff, eager to see history made once more as the first African-American President of the United States took his second oath of office on the national observance of one our nation’s most respected civil rights heroes, Martin Luther King Jr.
Amidst the touristic chaos, and the overtly frenetic mentality of the D.C. locals, the days leading up to a Presidential Inauguration are an amalgamation of rash consumerism, general hysteria, and mass confusion. The streets are awash with kids on school field trips (though this not exclusive to Inaugurations), the museums are overcome with families, and the subway stations are the meeting place for all of the disorder.
Ironically enough, the dysfunction of the nation’s capital could not stop me from running into Dr. Patty Long of the Education Department in a subway car the night before the Inauguration. There is little doubt that the few days before the quadrennial ceremony are a godsend for local business and a 72-hour migraine for locals (apologies to my friends in D.C., as I was certainly a contributor).
Despite all of this, I packed my weekend with events, sightseeing, and networking. Most notable was meeting the boy band, Mindless Behavior, at a swanky D.C. restaurant and being on a live broadcast of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
After a tiring and expensive weekend, Inauguration Day at last arrived. The frenzy of Monday, January 20, far exceeds that of the days preceding. One can expect only a few hours of eye rest and coffee is advisory.
With long lines and intimidating security behind me, I made my way through the droves of people to the colored section designated on the ticket. Packed tightly behind the coveted “red” section (seated), I was roughly 200 yards from the podium that would showcase the President, the Vice President, their families, and the distinguished guests and officials of the ceremony.
I can best describe the sight at the National Mall on Monday, January 20, 2013 as fulfilling. Regardless of one’s political ideology, the symbolism of the event and the spirit of the moment give weight to the American people’s desire to observe the person they elected dutifully accept their executive nod.
The scene at the U.S. Capitol is a grandiose celebration well worth the seven-plus hour wait. Taking into account the historical elements of the day – the reelection of the first African-American President, the swearing-in on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the 57th quadrennial peaceful transition of power – January 20, 2013 is a day that will be ingrained in the minds and hearts of all those who attended.
The convergence of nearly 1,000,000 people on the National Mall, and the President’s historical statements, engaged the American people in a continued discussion about our country’s future and the path ahead.
For many Americans, the 57th Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States was the realization of immense progress in our country that has already occurred. For all Americans, it was a reflection of the progress that is to come.
Samuel Taylor is a senior psychology major.