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PERSPECTIVE: Inauguration evokes passions

By Amelia Liebhold

Section: News

January 28, 2005

This past Wednesday brought forth two strong and contrasting beliefs of mine: I am a leftist Democrat (although on the Brandeis political spectrum, Im a little closer to the center) and I revere the office of the Presidency. Before the November elections, I worked hard to elect John Kerry, unfortunately to no avail. However, my love for politics did not stop there.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Ive spent much of my life in D.C. (our nations greatest city, in my opinion). My father works on the Mall, as have I for the past three summers. Many people from my area take D.C. for granted we dont visit the museums, we dont attend the fantastic cultural activities always being offered, and we dont go to political events (there are exceptions, of course).

One of the items on my list of things to accomplish in life was to witness a presidential inauguration. It didnt matter who was being sworn in. I just wanted to experience the partisan crowds, musical groups, ceremony, and, of course, the Presidents speech.

Since I am good friends with many of the people on the Brandeis Republicans executive board, I found out about their plan to attend the inauguration before many others did. When I told my friends about my wishes to go with them, they were more than accommodating to the enemy, a Democrat. We soon found out that wed be sharing the bus to D.C. with Students for Peace, a campus group planning to protest the very same event.

The next step was getting a ticket to the actual event. Over winter break, I contacted the offices of both of my senators and my congressman. All three rejected me due to the high volume of requests (even though Maryland is primarily Democratic, we are located so close to D.C. that many people want to go). However, on January 12th, I received a call from Congressman Elijah Cummings office that I would be receiving one ticket in the mail. I guess all of my hard work for his re-election campaign paid off! Except

My ticket never arrived. I checked my mail everyday from the 13th through the 19th, when we were leaving. On Wednesday, I completely lost it because I did not want to lose this one opportunity. I discussed my problem with Nancy at the mail office and she was absolutely fantastic. She had someone search through all of the backed up mail for my ticket just in case it was sitting in an unsorted pile of mail. It was never found.
I cried (yes, I did actually cry) all the way back to my room and called my dad at work. He couldnt help me, but at least he listened and reassured me that everything will work out in the end. How do parents know everything?

My dad helped me decide to try and find another ticket. After a little bit of thinking, I called the offices of our friendly senators from Hawaii, Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye. Honestly, how many people from predominately Democratic Hawaii travel to see the inauguration? Apparently not too many.

First, Senator Akakas office put me on their waiting list, then I tried Senator Inouyes office and they promised me a ticket. Not until I was on the bus did Senator Akakas office call me and tell me I would receive one of their tickets. It turned out for the best that I had an extra ticket.

The bus left for DC around 7 pm from the Shapiro Campus Center, and after two stops along the way, arrived at the Greenbelt Metro Station in suburban Maryland at around 3:30 am. We continued sleeping on the bus until everyone left a bit after 5.

We grabbed some breakfast and chatted for a while until we could pick up our tickets for the ceremony. First, we went to the Cannon House Office Building to pick up Schwartzs three tickets from Congressman Steve Israel (a Democrat from Long Island, NY). Continuing on, we went to the Hart Senate Office Building where I got the tickets from my friendly Hawaiian Senators.

At the Hart Building, we met up with Jacob Baime 08 and two of his friends from other universities. Robbie, Mike, Jessica (who we lovingly referred to as Press Corps for the rest of the day) and I had tickets for the green section, which was very close to the Capitol. The others had tickets in both gold, on the Mall and a little further away, and yellow, equally as close to the Capitol as green.

For the first time in my life, I was actually afraid of terrorism. At the security tent, there were no metal detectors. TSA employees (airport security) patted down every person, but the woman who patted me down only did my torso and up, not my legs.
The four of us chose a spot to stand, but since it was only 9:30, we sat on my fleece blanket. The musical performances before the ceremony included choirs and bands from around the country.

The ceremony began with the United States Marine Band, followed by a welcome by Senator Trent Lott. Reverend Dr. Luis Len said a prayer blessing the day, the officials, those serving in the armed forces, and the American people. Following his invocation, Susan Graham, a mezzo-soprano, performed.

Richard Cheney was sworn in as Vice President by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Another musical selection was performed by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Next was the moment everyone was waiting for, the Presidential Oath of Office. George Bush placed his hand on the family Bible and Chief Justice William Rehnquist administered the oath.

The President then spoke for 21 minutes about the importance of spreading freedom and democracy around the world. Bush also referenced certain issues that I believed were not appropriate for an inaugural address, but thats just my opinion. The crowd clapped heavily for his remarks, so I guess he made a good impression with conservatives.

Following Bushs remarks, there was the traditional 21 gun salute, a musical selection, and a benediction offered by Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell. As a fairly non-religious Jew, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and agreed with the prayer. Until he concluded with In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen, Caldwell expressed many common American ideals, such as safety, love, and peace.

Last on the program was the singing of the National Anthem, which I always find moving, even though no average person has quite the right range to sing it well.
The four of us decided it was time for lunch and we ended up at Subway, since everything else was so crowded. Jessica then left us to go write her article for the newspaper.

Because I dont often have the opportunity to share D.C. with my friends, I took Mike and Robbie on my grand tour of the National Museum of American History (where both my dad and I work). We visited three exhibitions and were sufficiently exhausted.
However, the trip would not be complete without me being a tourist in my own city. We walked just past the White House to the World War II memorial, which I had not yet seen (it only opened this past Memorial Day). We were not impressed, as the memorial seemed more like an accolade to the states than a monument to one of the greatest wars in our history.

Sufficiently tired, we headed back to Union Station to grab some dinner before returning to the bus. One of the Inaugural Balls was being held there, so almost all of the dining options were closed. McDonalds to the rescue!

To close our long but exciting day, we headed back to Greenbelt and awaited our bus. The Students for Peace seemed very pleased with their day. It turned out that pictures and video clips of some of our students showed up on Yahoo! News and on a Boston television station.
When the bus finally came, I waved goodbye to my home and prepared for a long night. I did some reading for one of my history classes, but quickly fell asleep. In complete shock, my seatmate woke me up at 2:30 am as we pulled into Brandeis. The trip that took us almost 9 hours to DC only took us 6 hours back. Wow!
Slowly, I walked back to my dorm room in North and sat at my computer for another hour or so to complete work for my Friday class. As much as I enjoy political activities, I am a student first.

Never before had I taken a trip to D.C. This may have even been the best trip Ive ever taken with a school group (Ive been to Disney World with my band, so that says a lot). I could not have asked to spend my time with better people. When it comes down to it, I may disagree with the Republicans politically, but were still very close friends. And as for the Students for Peace, Im close friends with many of them too. And I can now check off attending a Presidential Inauguration on my list of life goals!

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