Friday, January 28, 2005

Report from the Inauguration

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:00 PM |  

My niece, “Princess Kim,” is a freshman at the University of Minnesota Morris and “a proud Republican on an extremely liberal campus” (welcome to higher education, Kim!).

The College Republicans at Morris put together a trip to the Inaugural ceremonies. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Kim wrote. “I will never forget having the chance to be part of such an historic moment.” Here’s some of her impressions.

Thursday morning started out pretty early. We wanted to try and get to the Capitol by 8:00 a.m. so that we would be sure to get as far forward as possible so that we could see. Unfortunately, we got a little later start than expected, left part of the group behind at a metro stop, and didn’t end up getting to the Capitol much before 9:15. Our tickets were for the green standing section, which was located just behind the seated sections but in front of the reflecting pond.

Security definitely wasn’t as tight as I thought that it would be. We stood in a line for about 15 minutes, were asked to hand over our bags which were thoroughly dug through, and then were patted down. A woman in front of us had to leave the line and go back through after she had some perfume in her purse that they wouldn’t let it. She was forced to throw it away or not be allowed in. I guess I expected that they would have us go through metal detectors or something, but in retrospect that probably would have been inefficient.

Once we were through security, we had to go through a series of “checkpoints” to get to the actual ceremony grounds. I put checkpoints in parentheses because all they really consisted of were policemen who asked you to flash your ticket at them as you walked by. After a short walk we were on the Capitol lawn ready to see the ceremony. We had still gotten there early enough to get a decent spot, we ended up standing only about eight feet behind the fence, probably about 200 yards from the podium where Bush was sworn in.

The weather was nearly perfect; I don’t think it could have been much better. It was a little cold for some people (those from warm states) but not to bad considering the weather we had just left. The sun even peeked out for a while which was nice for me! Talking to people in the crowd was fascinating; there were some guys behind us who had road tripped from Wisconsin to come, some older men who had also come from Minnesota, and a family visiting as part of a band that was playing in the parade later in the day.

I’m pretty short, so I didn’t have the easiest time seeing everything that was going on; the men standing in front of us were pretty tall. They did have two jumbotrons on either side of the capitol that would show people as they came in to be seated. When Senator John Kerry was shown on the monitor, most of the crowd erupted in boo’s and hisses. Personally, I found this deplorable and disgusting, but there wasn’t a lot I could have done about it. The reactions to different politicians on the platform was pretty funny, I don’t think the people up there knew what the crowd was reacting too.

I thought it was amazing to know that all of the most important people in the United States were up on that platform. I didn’t have a real clear view, but I could make out different crowds like the Supreme Court Justices and such. The applause after particularly loved people came in was amazing. It was such a rush to be a part of a crowd that was so excited and moved by the events. George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush got a really warm reception, as did Dick and Lynn Cheney, and the Bush family. The College Republicans have a website, where you can go to see some video of people being introduced. The links are down at the bottom of the website.

At precisely 11:30, the actual ceremony began. There was a lot of singing from different groups, an interesting invocation to begin the event, and then some comments from Trent Lott. After Trent Lott spoke, Dick Cheney was sworn in. Dennis Hastert did the swearing in, but did a pretty sad job with it because he stumbled over all the words. Quite sad really… The applause after Cheney’s swearing in was pretty impressive too, it felt really cool to be a part of that moment.

After Cheney’s ceremony, there was yet another song, and then the big event. The crowd was completely silent as Chief Justice Rehnquist took to the platform. I was actually impressed he was there; even though I didn’t have a clear view of him I could see on the jumbotron that he didn’t look well at all. He did walk out by himself, but he looked really shaky. He didn’t sit outside for the ceremony, which definitely makes sense considering his health.

I’m sitting at my computer right now, and I can’t quite find the words to describe the actual swearing in. It was almost so quick that it was unimpressive, but at the same time it held so much gravity that it was impossible to not be affected by it. I think the thing that most impressed me was how smooth it was. When you think about how contentious the transfer of power is in many nations of the world, I find it stunning that we can do it every four years with no violence. As the most powerful nation in the world, and a nation with so many differing ideas and opinions, it really struck me during that moment how truly amazing this idea is.

Following the swearing in was Bush’s inaugural address. I thought that the speech was absolutely amazing. As an English and Speech Communications major, I was more interested in the words and ideas he was presenting, not as much the implications of those words, so as a note, my thoughts on the speech are presented with that focus.

Rhetorically, I thought that the speech was really strong. He made quite a few strong allusions to current events, but the way they were presented was as an abstract, so that the speech felt more timeless than simply focused on now. He also clearly referenced a lot of historical incidents in history that I thought were interesting. He also spoke quite clearly to individual groups of Americans as well as other groups across the globe. I thought this was an interesting way to present the speech so that he was able to say exactly what he wanted to each group.

My favorite part of the speech was his section on self-government and personal responsibility. [Note: Yes, my blood courses through this child’s veins.] After hearing those ideas, ideas that I passionately believe in I was reminded of why I am so proud to be American. My favorite quote from the speech is, “By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.” That is the exact reasoning that I hold both the moral and political beliefs that I do. Yo hear the President articulate them in an Inaugural address was amazing for me. I really found his speech to be amazing; the speech was easily the high point of my day.

During the speech, a number of protesters were escorted out. I couldn’t see what they did, I was paying attention to the speech, and I’m to short to see easily around the crowd in front of me, but I did see them being taken out by the police. People in the crowd started swearing at them and stuff, which I thought, was really unnecessary, but at the same time I think it was horrible to be protesting during the ceremony. It was sort of a weird moment, but it was taken care of really quickly and without much fuss by the security personnel.

After Bush’s speech, there was a benediction given and then the United States Marine Corps band played the National Anthem. The crowd was invited to sing along, and it was a beautiful experience to share such joy in our nation with hundreds of thousands of other people. Honestly, I couldn’t stop smiling all day after the ceremony because it was just that cool for me.