For those of you who follow me on Twitter (@DylanHayre), you know that I spent this past weekend in Washington, D.C. to be a part of President Barack Obama's Second Inauguration. We were fortunate enough to have tickets to view the event from fairly close up, so we were able to witness the pageantry of the occasion. It was awe-inspiring to see it all in person. I think that, regardless of your party affiliation or political beliefs, the Office of the President of the United States is worthy of people's respect and admiration, and no event epitomizes the majesty of the office more than the Inauguration ceremonies. What was even more overwhelming than the ceremony itself, however, was the sheer number of people who were there. The crowd may not have been as big as 2009, but, I promise, it was plenty big enough. Having had a couple days now to reflect upon the experience, here are two things I saw at the President's 2013 Inauguration.
First, the diversity of the crowd was remarkable. While we were waiting for the ceremonies to begin, we spoke to the people around us. They were white, black, and brown; they were gay and straight; they were young and old; they were deeply religious and non-believers; they were, in a sense, a microcosm of the melting pot that is our nation. I know that crowd diversity was a common theme for some reporters during the 2012 presidential campaign. So, I was aware of the this aspect of President Obama's following coming into the Inauguration. But, to see it in person, and to be a part of it, is something else entirely. As an Asian-American, I have always been somewhat conscious of the presence, or lack thereof, of diversity in a group. But the differences represented by the crowds at the Inauguration were so vast and so pervasive that they did not seem 'diverse.' Instead, they just seemed natural – this is what a large crowd of Americans is supposed to look like.
Second, the energy of the speech was palpable. A lot has been made of the President's speech in the days since the Inauguration. Some have called it a rallying cry for liberals, a return to progressive politics in the United States. Others have criticized it for being too partisan, too willing to alienate the other side of the aisle in order to score easy points. Regardless of which of these assessments is more accurate, the buzz in the crowd was tangible – people hung on every word, and you could almost feel the emotions of the person next to you rising and falling with each cadence in the President's delivery. It may have been a great speech, or it may not have been. That did not matter. There is something uniquely special about being at a ceremony as large as the Inauguration, and part of that stems from the fact that people are legitimately moved by the moment. Never before have I been in a crowd so large where emotions ran so high and loyalties ran so strong. It was, for lack of a better word, electric.
Would I go to an Inauguration again? Who knows. It was absolutely exhausting to drive down, spend a day walking around the city, spend another day standing in one place, then to drive back. It was cold. It was hard to move in the crowds, and it was harder still to not be pushed around by them. But there was on woman I saw on the way out of the Capitol area. She was a much older woman, standing in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by people, leaning on her cane. Her height led me to believe that she couldn't see much. She had a small build and a hunched stature. It looked like she may have come alone. But she stood there, intently focused on the area where the President stood delivering his speech. Her eyes were watery. Her smile was sincere. It must have been, for her, an incredible moment. And she stood there, for as long as we did, and probably could not have thought of a single complaint, even if she had been asked to do so. It made me realize how fortunate I was to be able to attend this Inauguration, and how it is an opportunity I do not ever want to take for granted. Would I go to an Inauguration again? Of course I would.