“Hey Richard. It’s Dad. Looks like –you know—it’s about five after—ten after five here. I’m watching CNN so I know that it’s 11:11 AM where you are. Just watched the motorcade moving out. I’m guessing your somewhere in that Sea of Humanity. But it looks like the suns out. They’re saying it’s a pretty nice day. So I hope you’re seeing something cool. Cuz you’re in the midst of a lot of people. Hey, if you get an opportunity—Feel free to call or just a quick text. I’ll try to talk to you later or at least tomorrow. Hopefully you do okay getting up to Grandma and Grandpa’s too. If you need directions or anything like that, you can always call me.”
That message was from my father on the day that George W. Bush left office and Barack Obama assumed office. He was calling from Denmark—where he often had to travel to for work. I was in Washington D.C. I have been a political junky my entire life. After the election of Barack Obama in November 2008, there was never really a question about whether or not I would go to the Inauguration. I was a history nerd, a major fan of Obama, hated Bush, and loved road trips. It was a no brainer.
Along with my close friend, we drove about 2,000 miles from Colorado to Washington D.C. We slept in the car—freezing our asses off. We were roughing it. It was the best road trip I have ever been on. We arrived in D.C. two days before Inauguration. We went everywhere in those two days—the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and so much more.
The night before the Inauguration, we went back to my car. Our plan was to sleep for a while then go back to The National Mall to stake out a good spot. Instead, the people whose house we parked in front of asked if we wanted to spend the night on the couch in their living room. I thought it was dangerous, but Yolanda was freezing. We took them up on the offer…and slept later than we wanted too.
After eating breakfast with the family, we thanked them and walked towards the mall. We were far away…but in the middle of millions of people. It was incredible. It was also only about 25-30 degrees outside. It was terrifyingly cold, but the crowd was cheerful. We made friends with several of the people around us.
I remember the moment George W. Bush came out. The sound of millions of people booing is incredible. My most vivid memory is when Dick Cheney emerged. When they first showed him on the screen, it wasn’t a boo that echoed over the National Mall. It was a hiss. Imagine the sound of millions of people seething with anger as they watch the Antichrist take the stage. That’s what it sounded like. It was frightening.
The cheering started when they first showed Obama on the big screen. It was explosive. As he took the oath of office, I couldn’t help but tear up. I grew up in the Bush years. I hated him with all my heart. He started two wars that I could not support. He destroyed the economy. He was insanely anti-gay. This man embodied everything that I hated in American Politics. As Obama took the Oath, the knowledge that Bush no longer held any power was overwhelming. As Obama gave his inauguration speech, I was filled with the hope that his campaign promised.
That is a day I will not soon forget. I promised myself I would attend every inauguration after that one. I have already failed. I left for the Peace Corps on January 14th, 2013—meaning I was in Morocco when Obama started his second term. But I will be there in January 2017 as Hillary takes the Oath of Office.