Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration: Pandemonium

3:30 a.m. was an early start. But after arriving at the 7th Street entrance with crowds bottlenecked back to nearly 4th Street, it was looking as though an earlier start may have been necessary. We eventually settled about two-thirds of the way to the Washington Monument, nestled in with people from Germany, California and Kent, Wash.

Despite the diversity of attendees, the crowd was unified by their purpose for turning out. Buzzwords like “history”, “hope” and “first African-American” were used often to describe why people were there.It is hard to describe what the scene looked like today.

The fever pitch of the event was amazing, as more and more people spilled onto the grass canvas as the clock approached 10 a.m. As each minute passed, the anticipation of the moment heightened for the millions of people who attended.

The energy was unlike anything I had seen before. “Obama” chants resonated from the masses, pins clung to supporters’ hats and jackets and the crowd swarmed around JumboTron screens to await President-Elect Barack Obama’s arrival.

As both Vice President Joe Biden and Obama took the oaths of office and were sworn in, jubilation rang out from the crowd. As the final words were spoken, clenched fists cloaked in insulated gloves, digital cameras and waving flags shot as high as the decibel levels did.

In a fragile era of American politics, the turnout felt like a testament to the renewed faith the country has in its elected leaders and the promise of a healthier nation. Despite the bone chilling cold, smiles stretched from ear to ear as Obama emerged in front of the podium. The audience ranged from those too young to remember to those too aged to walk.

Although I am excited for the start of Obama’s Presidency, I remain skeptical of the impact Obama will have in his early days as in office. Change is neither easy nor comes rapidly. With the economy in dire straits and wars abroad still raging on, the former Senator has some critical decisions to make. As he alluded to today, this period of American history will “define a generation.”

In my own way, I hope today’s events will define my generation as much as it defines our President’s. Patriotism, financial restraint and mutual respect, all tenets of Obama’s inaugural address, must be restored by the true saviors of our nation: the citizens themselves. My generation, largely responsible for Obama’s sweeping victory in November, must shoulder the load of restoring our nation’s greatness. We must foster global relationships, change our lifestyles and be stewards of our peers. We each need to take responsibility for being a cog in the bigger picture, and working towards a better future.Our 44th President has sounded the alarm for where we are and what we must do. While Inauguration Day was a wake up call, we still have much work to do to reach the distant horizon of prosperity.

Cross-posted at Spokesman Review's "Obama's Inauguration" blog.

-Derek Casanovas

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