Monday, January 19, 2009

A new era begins

On January 20, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama II becomes the 44th President of the United States. It is a truly historic moment - regardless of whatever background and political leanings you may have. This is a time to celebrate our new leader, and to celebrate America.

Here, we will reflect on this moment. Not only that, I have some friends and a sister who will be reporting from the scene in Washington, D.C. Continue to check here for the latest updates!

The audience reading this is going to be full of some die-hard liberals, and also some very devoted Republicans, and many who are in between. Many are friends of mine. Many are in my extended family. I'm personally an independent voter, with no true allegiance to either of the two political parties; and as such, I will aim to make this as non-partisan as possible.


"The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly," said John McCain during his concession on the night of November 4.

Yet how much of America truly spoke? Despite the all-important electoral process, the popular vote was divided more down the middle. McCain's remark was part of a very gracious speech - perhaps the greatest speech of his life - and he received applause from everyone, regardless of how they voted. (Nevermind those boos by some of those McCain faithful - even McCain himself was urked by that.)

This was some time after the countdown to the West Coast election forecasts that effectively put Barack Obama over the top. Where was I? I was sitting where I am now - at home - chatting with a friend of mine from Athens, Georgia. While pockets of people around town were counting down as if it were New Year's Eve, while University of Washington students gathered in Red Square were about to erupt in a spontaneous and passionate rendition of our national anthem - I was here just appreciating the moment, in quiet reflection.

But I decided to get out of the house to celebrate anyway. And there was much to celebrate. Yes, the candidate I voted for won, but even above that the process worked. As it did when George W. Bush won 8 years earlier (although the Florida debacle turned more than a few heads). As it did every time a president was elected. Maybe some presidents didn't turn out the way we would have liked, but the American people participated in the process and determined the outcome. That we can live in a democracy such as the one we live in, is a gift. Sometimes we take it for granted.

I arrived in Downtown Seattle, where cars were honking and places were still bustling with activity. I ended up shaking hands and hugging strangers - not just Obama supporters, but also McCain supporters who showed up to celebrate with everyone. That is something I will always take with me for the rest of my life - it is the America that I know lurks underneath some of the murkyness of foggy politics. At its best, the heart of America is still a beacon in that very fog.

I showed up at Ohana (a popular pan-Asian restaurant), where a hip-hop DJ was playing some beats, with Obama's speeches overlaid on top. I sat with a group of strangers who were, like me, enjoying the moment. Maybe I don't agree with every single detail that Obama brought forth in those speeches, but I agreed with the heart of it all.

Fast-forward to Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, a day before the Inauguration, and... it just happens to be Martin Luther King Day. Tomorrow, Jan. 20, part of King's "dream" will come true. For the mere fact that Obama is African-American is of less significance than his stature as a real American, true in his intentions, bold in his convictions, and anointed by our Creator to do some good in this world.

And so a new era begins. God bless America, and may He bless us despite ourselves.


As mentioned, I have some friends who are in DC at this moment, braving the cold and crowds. I intend to update this section with their updates, and I will also "interview" them throughout the process. Here's a list of the people I know who are there, and who will be reporting to me:
  • Theon - he actually lives there - he'll be reporting to me via text, likely
  • Sophie - a friend of mine from church - she'll be reporting to me via text, and she'll also be tweeting (#sophiakristina) and updating her blog (link below)
  • Rachel - my sister - reporting likely via text
  • Joe - another friend from church, reporting via text
Note: all times are EST (Eastern Standard Time or DC time), so subtract 3 hours if you want PDT (Pacific Daylight Time or Seattle time).

Monday, January 19, 2009
  • Sophie (9:08am/Twitter) - At baggage claim at IAD. Let the celebration begin!
  • Theon (12:05pm/Facebook msg) - As of now, I believe that I will be on the parade route tomorrow.
  • Sophie (2:11pm/Twitter) - Heading to Capitol Hill to drop off bags. Looks like we r camping out tonite!
  • Sophie (2:27pm/Twitter) - News out of DC says tomorrow's inauguration is being treated as the largest event in the nation's history.
  • Sophie (2:44pm/Twitter) - Circling Capitol. Will drop off sleeping bags, overnite bags and ballgowns to a church office where we will be spending the nite.
  • Sophie (2:48pm/Twitter) - Hungry. In the past 18 hours, ive had cereal. Ready for a meal.
  • Sophie (3:16pm/Twitter) - Just finished dropping off bags at the lutheran church of the reformation. Off to Georgetown to meet with Theon, Joe and Grace at Dumbar ...
  • Sophie (3:22pm/Twitter) - Driving by Potomac River to Georgetown. Its frozen over.
  • Sophie (4:48pm/Twitter) - Off to find food. Perhaps Cracker Barrel? MmmM!
  • Sophie (5:44pm/Twitter) - Sitting in traffic
  • Sophie (8:55pm/Twitter) - At Cracker Barrell in Manassas. Waiting for my chicken fried chicken, fried okra, sweet baby carrots and corn...mMMmm good
  • Sophie (8:48pm/Twitter) - Sleepy Heading to Capitol Hill now
  • Sophie (9:08pm/Twitter) - Heading to Capitol Hill via Metro
  • Me (9:32pm/Text) - [To Rachel] How's everything there? Do you think it will snow while Obama is sworn in?
  • Joe (10:01pm/Text) - [In response to my earlier question about spending MLK Day in DC]: Though it may sound cliche, I listened to people's stories and was reminded of how I share commonalities with people one may think are so different.
  • Me (10:04pm/Text) - [To Joe] Has it hit you yet that you're in the midst of the world's focus? I'm excited for you - and excited for our country.
  • Sophie (10:07pm/Twitter) - Night cap at firehook bakery & coffee house on Capitol Hill.
  • Rachel (10:07pm/Facebook Wall) - [To me] Probably not.. too cold n clear I think. We had light flurries earlier on monday but not much. It was more like dippin dots hail. Things r good though, we're near the capitol bldg.
  • Rachel (10:09pm/Facebook Status) - chillin (literally!) near the Capitol Building.
  • Joe (10:09pm/Text) - It has not fully hit. I'd been to DC enough for work. This time is wholly different. A sense of a challenge is before us--but now so is the sense of true hope.
  • Me (10:14pm/Text) - [To Joe] In what ways do you think you will be empowered when you return to Seattle?
  • Joe (10:19pm/Text) - Honestly, as a SW I was jaded until the Feb primaries. I went to the Key to hear Obama speak. I heard what he said and knew my career needed to change. It did!
  • Joe (10:24pm/Text) - Hope I don't sound cheesy.
  • Me (10:39pm/Text) - [To Joe] Nope - you sound encouraged and enlightened.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
  • Rachel (12:26am/Facebook Status) - Rachel is catchin some quick zzz's at a nearby UMC bldg.. the inaugural action starts soon!
  • Rachel (5:52am/Facebook Status) - Rachel is up for the inauguration.. it so cold!!
  • Sophie (6:42am/Twitter) - Getting ready to walk to east side of Capitol
  • Sophie (7:15am/Twitter) - En route to east side of capitol.
  • Sophie (7:34am/Twitter) - Feeling like Moses wandering through the wilderness.
  • Sophie (8:09am/Twitter) - At smithsonian. Ready to witness history.
  • Rachel (8:13am/Facebook Status) - Rachel is here at the inauguration with a million catrillion bazillion other ppl. COLD but excited!
  • Sophie (9:19am/Twitter) - Waiting for Sabrina and Brandon near Smithsonian Metro. I see flurries
  • Sophie (9:58am/Twitter) - Toes feel like they will fall off. 3 socks on. Obama just walked up steps.
  • Sophie (10:28am/Twitter) - Sunny but still freezing.
  • Sophie (10:53am/Twitter) - Arg with people with signs blocking my view trying to get on TV. Move!
  • Sophie (10:57am/Twitter) - Obama's motorcade coming up.
  • Sophie (11:02am/Twitter) - Members of Senate being seated.
  • Sophie (11:41am/Twitter) - 20 more minutes and a new chapter in our nation's history begins.
  • Sophie (11:52am/Twitter) - Here on the National Mall. Future generations will mark this morning.
  • Rachel (1:30pm/Text) - Now the crowds can't get out!
  • Sophie (1:34pm/Twitter) - Gridlock at National Mall. Too much pedestrian traffic. People getting stuck and not able to exit.

  • - my friend Sophie's blog about her experience watching the inauguration
  • Do you have a blog or website about the inauguration that you want to list here? Let me know!

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