|Minutes that were worth the trip
By Suzanne Hanney, IWPA President
Suzanne Hanney stands at the
Washington Monument on the
National Mall, where she watched
people react emotionally as
loudspeakers broadcast Barack
Obama taking the presidential oath
of office. There were more than 1.5
million people on the National Mall
and the Washington Monument is
roughly 12 blocks from the
inauguration platform |
Barack Obama’s face was barely visible
in the noontime sun, on the jumbo screen far
away over the tops of port a-potties and people’s
heads, but the historic moment of his presidential
inauguration in Washington D.C. was worth
the overnight bus trip from Chicago and hours
of walking. Standing in front of the Washington
Monument, I could hear the largely black audience
around me react as the first African-American
president took the Oath of Offi ce. Suddenly I knew
they felt as much a part of the political system
as I always have.
Later, the Boston Globe published GPS
photos of the National Mall that showed some
clusters of people but equally large open spaces,
which proved that there were insufficient jumbo
screens for the 1.5 million people.
We had walked
2 ½ hours – up one side of the Mall and down the
other – before we found a place where police let
us in. Obama was about 12 blocks away, on the
west front of the U.S. Capitol.
It was disconcerting to find the nation’s
capital overwhelmed by the crowd. As we
followed signs to exit the Mall, military police
vaguely directed us elsewhere. I wandered north, up 18th Street and Connecticut
Avenue, for another hour before I could fi nd a map and the Metro subway system. Police just stared at the throngs coming up the street, climbing over shrubbery and barricades in their path.
Still, it was not a scary experience. The diverse throng of young and old, black
and white, maintained a friendly attitude. And it was a chance to understand the layout
of federal government buildings.
I went to the inauguration as one of 560 people on 10 buses chartered by
Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-Chicago). During the campaign, Davis had led a
19-hour bus trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to canvass caucus voters, and I went along to
cover their experience. The inauguration was a follow-up for people who provided
input to the congressman’s policy making groups. This time, it was a blend of
assignment and vacation for me.
The congressman and I go back to 1998 and the NFPW convention in
Washington. His special inauguration moment came through a reception he hosted in
the Rayburn House Offi ce Building so that people could avoid the cold and the crowds
of the swearing in ceremony. As 200 people spilled into the hall, a white, conservative
Republican congressman from Alabama – Spencer Baucus, ranking member of the
House Financial Services Committee -- invited them into his office. Congressional Roll
Call later noted the hospitality toward Davis, a black liberal progressive from the North.
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