A few weeks ago I invited a dedicated Obama campaign volunteer from North Carolina (a lady who prefers to remain anonymous) to consider recording her feelings and memories following her much anticipated sojourn to Washington DC for the inauguration of her country’s 44th President.
My thanks go to her for this fine contribution,
These are her own words ..
“At last I was there, standing on the National Mall – the one place I wanted to be on 20th January 2009.
My journey had begun 1640 days earlier, when Barack Obama’s Keynote Address electrified not only the delegates of the 2004 Democratic National Convention but also the millions watching on television.
Realizing that finally a politician was saying exactly what for decades I had longed to hear, I told my companions: “Someday he will run for the presidency of the United States – and when he does, I shall work for him and support him.”
The final three hours of my long journey, waiting in subfreezing temperatures to enter the Mall, seemed agonizingly long. As a large crowd of us huddled at our assigned “gate” to pass through security, I was anxious that it might close before I could reach it. But I made it. I claimed my one square foot of the Mall.
To enter the Mall amidst the jubilation that was already at full throttle was breathtaking. Still, the gathering had all the hallmarks of an Obama rally, albeit the largest yet: extraordinary courtesy, friendliness, enthusiasm and camaraderie born of a strong sense of unity for “our guy.” What differed was that all of this seemed magnified far beyond what I could ever have imagined.
The excitement and enthusiasm of the huge crowd, later estimated at 1.8 million, overflowed in a tidal wave of emotion which at times was overwhelming. Although the Inaugural ceremony was still an hour away, the sight of someone dabbing furtively at tears while smiling broadly seemed perfectly natural. There were groups whose members obviously knew each other well. Others had formed simply because they felt compelled to share the excitement and anticipation with anyone near enough to be heard over the din. Several of us had chatted with each other as we waited to clear security. Now, introductions proceeded all around. Since most of us had been volunteers for Obama, we shared our campaign experiences, a bit surprised that what we may have regarded as unique to our corner of the USA in fact had no geographical boundaries.
Although the small size of bags we were allowed to bring onto the Mall prevented our bringing along much in the way of food, what we had was shared with the others. We ignored the images flickering on the Jumbotrons – time enough for those when things began to happen on the Inaugural platform of the Capitol. Other groups somehow found or made room for dancing. Others sang patriotic songs, including “This land is my land,” no doubt a holdover from Sunday’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Children scampered among adults, who were confident the youngsters were safe. On this day of days, there were no strangers.
Frequently, chants arose: “O-BAM-a! O-BAM-a!” Or, “YES WE CAN!” to which an antiphonal “YES WE WILL!” echoed from elsewhere in that sea of humanity. Sometimes, isolated shouts and cheers erupted from throats that would not be suppressed. Cheers – not for a candidate this time, but for our next President. Cheers for the hopes that had bound us and that now were about to become reality. The mood was that of a gigantic festival. If anyone had chided us for being so giddy and emotional, we would have answered, “Yes – and why not?”
A young couple from Nevada and I discovered that we had at least two things in common. First, we came from states that the GOP had assumed would be theirs for the taking in the Presidential election. We recounted our early days of volunteering in GOP territory (difficult and often discouraging). But Obama had carried both of our states in November. Second, the same Obama field organizer had trained and coached us. In North Carolina’s Primary campaign, he had shaped a strong, committed cadre of volunteers in my county. During the Presidential campaign, he had worked in several western states, including Nevada. We knew he had to be somewhere in that vast crowd. We wondered why had we not thought to get in touch with him so we could celebrate together?
See Page 2 ..