Life has been one big whirlwind since J and I returned from President Obama’s inauguration, but I wanted to be sure and share with you some of the pictures from the week as well as some reflections on the significance this event holds for me.
We arrived in DC on Monday morning and spent the day on the Mall scoping out the layout for the festivities on Tuesday and enjoying the excitement of the crowds that had gathered for the big event!
We then headed off to our little cabin at a KOA in West Virginia (about 45 minutes from DC) and grabbed a couple hours sleep before getting up at 3:30am on Tuesday morning to make our way back to the Mall to watch the swearing in ceremony.
Standing with the crowd in the freezing early morning weather was unlike any other experience of my life. We were privileged to share a space on the Mall with a group who had marched with Dr. King, or had family members that had done so. To be able to join with them as witnesses during this historic moment in American history was both humbling and inspiring. These individuals had struggled and fought for freedoms that I’ve been able to take for granted my whole life as a white middle-class American woman. Sharing solidarity with them in the moment the first African American was sworn in as a President of the United States is an experience I will carry with me the rest of my life.
When President Obama finally took the stage the crowd went wild!!! Everyone was cheering and crying and hugging – it was truly a sureal moment.
Following the ceremony we ducked into the Museum of Natural History to let the crowds thin out a bit and much to our pleasure they were broadcasting live the Inaugural Parade in their movie theater. We spent the whole afternoon there watching and cheering with a group of about 300 others from the warmth and comfort of a lovely theater. We love DC’s museums!
That night we headed off to our Inaugural Ball, and while Obama didn’t make it to our celebration we had a great time and got to meet some very interesting people.
The next couple of days we spent exploring DC. We went to the Museam of the American Indian – the newest museum of the mall. It was fantastic! I highly recommend visiting if you ever get the chance. While we were there a tribe from South Dakota performed a drum circle ceremony for about an hour, it was quite beautiful.
We also went to the FDR memorial which is outdoors and stretches along the Potomac. There are quotes by FDR throughout the memorial as well as some amazing sculptures of FDR, Eleanor, and scenes of life from that era. The following are some of my favorites…
As we’ve settled back into life in Vancouver I keep finding myself ruminating on the theme of being a witness. Everywhere we went in DC people were sporting t-shirts, buttons, and hats stating that they were ‘a witness’ to Barack Obama’s inauguration. That word has stuck with me as it is does not reflect the often passive ways in which we seek “entertainment” at events like this and I have been trying to unpack the significance of it for me.
In this case, it felt like we were more than just observers and our presence there in DC served a purpose. For some, it was a celebration of a huge milestone in a lifetime of struggle for civil rights. While I have not had to bear the brunt of these struggles, I have been convicted of the responsibility that comes with the privilege that I enjoy and my presence there was a way of actively affirming the greatness of that milestone, and my own commitment to making sure that justice continues to increase with each new generation.
I have been thinking also about what my experience as a witness to this event means now that we’re back home and the fanfare is over. Being a witness comes with responsibility. Witnesses for a trial are called on to remember, and to speak truth. Witnesses to a wedding are there to provide an account and testify to the character of the individuals, as well as to enter into a covenant with the couple to support and uphold them in the years to come.
So what does it mean to be a witness to President Obama’s swearing in? During his inaugural speech President Obama offered some suggestions that resonated deeply with my own faith and the calling I feel to live out my convictions, in the words of a favorite biblical passage, “to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God” (Micah 6:8).
Arising out of a similar commitment, our new president called on all of us to act. To reach out to one another. To care for one another. To care for our country and our land. He called us to strive to be our best selves, and pledged to do the same. As a witness I feel that I have a responsibility to remember this call and to continue to testify to the message of hope I was fortunate enough to be a first hand witness to. And I am hopeful. Seeing so many millions of Americans resonate and connect on such a deep level with this calling has given us all new reason to hope.