Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blogging the Inauguration: Notes from the Ceremony

The view from my seat.

So, the seat is great. I'm probably 50 yards from Obama, et al. I couldn't actually make them out; even people who had a straight on view said they could only barely make them out. But it's very cool.

***

Various luminaries appear on the jumbotron. Colin Powell gets cheers. George H.W. Bush looks old. John McCain talks to a very tall man. Joe Lieberman is heartily jeered, and at some length. There is clearly no love lost for Joe.

Michelle Obama looks amazing.
Wow.

The girls are beautiful. Dick Cheney is in a wheelchair. Someone mentions Dr. Strangelove.

And then they take him away -- all I can think of is oh my god, even now he's going to his secret hideout. Let it go already.

***

The presidential motorcade comes into view. The lady next to me comments, "Wow, it looks like just a row of hearses." I think about moving.

The motorcade coming into view behind us.

***

George W. Bush appears for the first time. A strained, mixed reaction. Quite a few boos, but that reaction is clearly not well received by the group. The preferred response seems to be a silent civility.

The crowds behind entertain themselves with rounds of "Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey-hey-hey, goodbye." I feel like I'm at a White Sox game.

***

The announcer asks the crowd to please be seated. Those standing jeer loudly. Everyone laughs.

***

Barack Obama appears onscreen, walking slowly out to meet us. At times he looks as though he is about to receive some very bad news. He stops on the stairs and takes a very deep breath before proceeding.

He emerges. Crowd goes wild.

***

The ceremony begins. Aretha Franklin reminds everyone why she is the Queen of Soul. Many tears.



***

Rick Warren gets really worked up. He also offers some nice prayers. My favorite: "Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity."

***

Vice Presidential oath of office. Biden punches "So help me God."



***

Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and some other guy play a song composed for the occasion by John Williams. It has a very poignant, almost funereal introduction -- touches something deep. Hints of the old American Shaker song, "Simple Gifts" emerge.

And then suddenly the song collapses into merry rounds of the Shaker song. All I can think is "Dance, dance, wherever you may be." Seems to kill the mood.

***

Watching the oath. (Click to see the bigger view.)

Presidential Oath. Obama stutters at one point: apparently, the Chief Justice has the text wrong. [He has actually corrected the grammar of the piece -- where it said "to faithfully execute", splitting the infinitive, he has moved "faithfully" to the end of the sentence.] I wonder if it's still valid, or whether it could be grounds for annulment later. I've had too much exposure to canon law.

At this of all times, the mind wanders. Wouldn't it be nice if you could annul a president?

The cynic within reminds me, it's called a general election. 2004, everybody, where were you?

[Note: Two days later, Roberts and Obama redid the oath of office in a private ceremony. The prior had been completely valid, but they did it to quell any anxieties. Obama said after, "You know, the problem is, now we have to have 12 more inaugural balls."]

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