January 19, 2009

A Special Day In Washington

OK, by now you know I have traveled to Washington, DC to witness the swearing in of Barack Obama as our 44th President. Part of my day involved standing in a long, long line outside the Cannon House Office Building to get a ticket to the inauguration. Waiting in the cold with thousands of others was an opportunity to talk with people and listen in to many different conversations. It was an amazing experience because while the faces were diverse, people seemed unified by their hopes and dreams for America's future. It was strangers talking to strangers. As they exchanged stories about the election cycle and their own election experiences it was clear that they felt that they had a stake in things to come.

I was struck by the paradox of that moment - those gathered had a collective positive outlook for the future despite their individual anxiety about an economy in chaos and an unpopular war in Iraq.

People from all over the world have converged on Washington to witness history. There is a special energy in the air. A glimpse of tomorrow's swearing in came yesterday with the "We are One Concert" in which an estimated 400,000 attended. On Tuesday there could be up to 2 million people on the Capitol Mall sharing the moment with our nation.

One observer said today that officials estimate that 10,000 tour buses will show up and if those 40 foot buses were lined up end to end they would stretch out for 75 miles.

And tonight people are still swarming around downtown soaking in the sights. Some have sleeping bags - they will obviously spend the night outdoors getting up early to secure their spot for watching the festivities.

Earlier, as I started to write this post, I was thinking about my experiences today and trying to understand why people feel the way they do. Maybe it's because people feel like they have a stake in things - maybe they believe that with the election of Barack Obama they now have a voice. I am not a political scientist and can't explain the phenomenon with any academic certainty but I can tell you that there is something special in the air - a unique climate engulfs Washington tonight.

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