Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Witnessing the Obama Inauguration and the Majesty of Democracy

I feel fortunate and privileged to be one of the 2 million plus people who witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama. And in the process i saw the "majesty of democracy and the making of history" (as heard on cnn).

Much is already being said and many can say it better, but no words and no amount of TV can capture the actual experience. Purely momentous, electric, humbling, inspiring, packed and bone-freezingly cold, but a lifetime experience.

My plan (as usual last minute) was simple. Get to DC by Midnight Jan 20th, spend sometime in the Adams Morgan area where city revelers have been celebrating since jan 18th. And then as the DC metro starts service at 4 am, get to the national mall (the almost 2 mile strip open to every one) and hope to get as front as possible (4th street) for the non-ticketed users. And so it was.

I got there by 5. Standing outside at 4am at the Adams Morgan metro station, i got a feeling that we were looking to a record-breaking crowd for the inauguration and perhaps hundred thousand were already at the mall. People had lined up outside the station even at that time to get in. And it was by the time i got to the mall, thousands were already there. And the crowds just kept coming and coming.

The Capitol at 5 am

They streamed in. The crowds came from afar. From Hawaii, from the deep south, from New York, from all the corners of America. Of all types and ages. Little kids (in groups, camped out). Really old people, trudging with their walking steps; looking frail in body, but mighty in spirit and determination. People with skull caps bearing obamas name. Some draped themselves in blankets woven with his image.

And we all stood there, braving (infact, for most of the time, oblivious and even nonchalant) of the biting cold. The only thing that mattered was being there to be part of something special, to see the dawn of a new era in American history. To see and to draw inspiration and to relive in their memories, the day America set to claim the unfulfilled and regain its lost dreams. To see the formidable barrier of race fall, in the inauguration of the first African-American President of the USA. The 44th President. And one with the amazing potential, of limitless ambitions, tremendous intellect, endless equipoise and untainted integrity.

The Scene at 6.30am

And we roared when he entered the stage. And roared louder when he came to take the Oath. And were ecstatic when he spoke. Some wept. Many who couldnt fully see the jumbotrons, were contented with just staring with hope. Everyone chanted the famous "Obama, Obama" chant. The kids screamed too, and perched on their parents shoulders. Thousands waved flags. And all booeed (when the ex-prez was being referred to ). Some fainted. But none, lost their claim in time and space witnessing this momentous occasion. And, i with my fingers frozen (and the cell networks irregularly connecting), kept twittering.

And then came the inaugural speech (will blog details on this soon). A speech punctuated with resounding applauses and pin drop silence listening to every word as it wafted in obama's grand voice and echoed in the air. A speech drawing inspiration and lessons from the past and setting the direction for the years and decades of work needed to renew and redefine the greatness of America. A speech that extends the hand of help to other nations and inclusive of all religions.

What a speech, What a day! And what an Audience. A sea of people stretching from the capitol building down to the Washington monument. And along with all this, were displays of the American Ingenuity, enterprise and sense of humor, that makes all this tick. An old man was selling "an official certification of attendance". Another man was selling a t-shirt on the pavement near Pennsylvania Avenue.

And this t-shirt summed it all for me as it said, in a cool blue font, "I came, i saw and i froze. But i would not have missed it for the world."

What a year it was been since i first heard Obama and volunteered for his campaign in the new Hampshire Primary in Jan 2008. A year ending in a promised fulfilled and a potential now being set to realization


Arvind said...

That is AMAZING!
I especially loved the T Shirt - "I Came, I Saw, I Froze"!

But so WORTH IT!

watch History being made!

Global Wanderer said...

you are right. about both. the t-shirt was amazing.