The Celebration Begins

January 19, 2009

Nani and I are in Washington, DC for the inauguartion celebrations. There is excitment and jubilation in the city! Some streets are closed to traffic, but they are filled with people. It is cold and crowded, but almost everyone is smiling and celebrating. The city is energized.

We met our friend, Nousher Jaheti, who was once a foreign contract worker in Saipan and is now living in Washington, DC. We had a wonderful breakfast and received our inaugural invitation from another friend. The inauguration invitations are beautiful, like formal wedding invitations. The envelope contains the gold and black embossed invitation with tissue separating the signed portraits of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, a formal inauguration ceremony program with a gold tassle and the tickets to the inaugurattion. We also received two Metro passes that we have been using all day. They have a pricture of Barack Obama on them. We are so grateful to have been given the tickets and the Metro passes!

We went to the "We Are One" concert by the Lincoln Memorial yesterday. The National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument was a sea of people from all over the country and world who gathered to celebrate hope for our country. We heard some people speaking Tagalog, Spanish, French, German, and languages we did not recognize. There were elderly people, families, couples, and tiny babies. The military surrounded the Mall and there were security gates to enter. Even though we left for the Mall early, we couldn't get close to the Lincoln Memorial, but there were giant screens everywhere.

Denzel Washington opened the program speaking of unity. Tom Hanks read the Gettsburg Address. Tiger Woods, and others also spoke. Jon Bon Jovi and Bettye LaVette sang "A Change Is Gonna Come." Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and James Taylor were among the performers. Pete Seeger was there! (omg Pete Seeger!) He sang "This Land is Your Land" with Bono. Will-i-am and Sheryl Crow sang Bob Matley song, "One Love."

Bono said, “Forty-six years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, on Tuesday, his dream will come true.” And he said it was not just the American dream, it is Ireland's Dream, Africa's dream...

Queen Latifa talked about Mariam Anderson being blocked from singing at Constituion Hall in 1939 because of the color of her skin. She then performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The giant screens showed Mariam Anderson singing "My County Tis of Thee" at the very place the "We Are One" Concert was taking place. The concert was moving and perfectly choreographed.

The crowd cheered when the future first family appeared and walked down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Barack Obama addressed the crowd to thunderous cheers and the muffled sound of hundreds of thousands of mittened and gloved hands clapping. Some quotes from his remarks:

In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis.

There is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

Thank you, America. What gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the space in between. It is you, Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.”
At the concert people cheered, danced, and cried tears of joy. The concert was a jubilant celebration, but also a time for thoughtful reflection.

We really could not see well (we are short); we could not always hear well (lots of chatter), but just being there was amazing.

After we left the concert we stopped to take a photo of Nani with the White House in the background and we heard someone shouting my name. It was my friend from the NEA, a professional film maker who was there recording events. It's amazing that in all those people you can find someone you know!

We went to the museum of Natural History and walked for miles through closed streets and ended up at the Metro Center where we finally took the Metro to go back to the apartment. We had a wonderful dinner with Mozhid and his friend.

It was a really wonderful first day of the inaugural celebration. Tomorrow we are participating in the National Day of Service and visiting museums and friends. Some photos in no particular order:



Saipan Writer said...

Absolutely love the invitation!

Call me green with envy!