The official blog of the 2009 inauguration in Washington DC through the eyes of Andrew Spear, Kristin Majcher, and Johnny Simon. 

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Bits from Monday

I never quite made it downtown today. Spent my day exploring the zoo (lovely in the winter) and the Adams Morgan neighboorhood. Here are some odds and ends, and a bit of Obama ephemera.

Massive mural on a side of a restaurant in Adams Morgan.

People writing on and looking at a large bulletin board with messages for the next president. They ranged from "Stop War" to "Legalize Weed" to "Go Eagles!"


Metro train. In a few hours the distance that was between me and the camera should be jam packed with inauguration goers. I plan to be very uncomfortable for the entire ride.

I planned on going to the inauguration with no ticket to the event and just going with the flow. Though on Friday it just so happened that tickets for me (and today for my girlfriend) appeared. I'd go so far as to claim magic, but lets jut say it was very unexpected and I am extremely gracious. While a ticket is by no means a guarantee of a good picture (nor is the lack of one a sign of poor pictures, there's so much going her, pictures are everywhere) it will be nice to be a "guest" (one of hundreds of thousands of people with tickets) and say that on paper...I was there. Talk to you tomorrow.


Today the preparations for tomorrow's swearing-in ceremony and parade were visible on every street. But while workers are putting up makeshift walls to close off the streets, ideological barriers are being torn down. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day, which commemorates the March on Washington 46 years ago. People that we have talked to all seem to have the same opinion: equality is imminent, but there still is a lot of work to be done.

As predicted, the crowds keep growing, and we've met people from all over the place. The positive atmosphere seems to be attributed to two things: The first day of Obama's presidency, and George Bush getting out of town. The parting words of one man I talked to from Indiana were "Now I have to go move George out the White House." A woman from Dayton said that she met people on the Mall from as far away as Peru and we chatted with a woman who flew here all the way from France. The fact that people from faraway lands are showing up for this event proves that the scope of this event is not limited to the capitol, or even the country - it's something being celebrated by people all over the world. This kind of overwhelming support is kind of bizzaire when compared to the kind of reaction that so many other countries have had towards us in the past few years, but nobody in this city seems to notice. It seems like everyone just wants a fresh start, and the general consensus is that we'll be getting one tomorrow.

Today we picked up our tickets from Ohio Congressman Charlie Wilson's office in The Cannon Building. Basically, there are three congressional office buildings and three senate buildings in the center of town, and all sorts of people were flocking there to get their tickets. The lines were huge by noon, but we ended up finding a short line via the side door. But by the time we came out, 1st & C and the surrounding streets were completely swamped with eager people from all over the place who had managed to score the most sought-after tickets of the year. Call me optimistic, but watching ordinary citizens cramming into metal detectors to gain access into big, important government buildings seemed like democracy in action. Oh yeah, and for the record, California definitely had the best brunch in the building.

Apparently there are 240,000 swearing-in tickets, and 3,000 for the parade route. We weren't important enough to score seats, so that means we'll have to fight for room behind the reflecting pool. Yes, although congressmen were nice enough to give out tickets to their loyal constituents, there's not going to be enough room for all of us. This means leaving Noah's row house in Parkview around 5 a.m.. We've abolished plans to take the metro In fear of being packed like sardines in a crushed tin box, and the only alternative is an hour walk downtown in the frigid, dark morning before the sun even comes up. We're planning on leaving tomorrow night to go back to Ohio, as we all have to be ready for class on Wednesday. This is basically going to be the longest day any of us have had for a long, long time, but we all agree that it's totally worth it.

If you haven't noticed already, we've been doing portraits and Q&As with people we're meeting. Most of this is because no matter how much I can talk about what we're seeing, nothing seems to convey what an amazing experience this is like personal stories. So expect a full account of the inaugural events tomorrow, as well as more of these profiles.

Here you can watch the swearing-in ceremony online, which starts at noon. After that, the parade starts at noon. And this webpage has some historical information on inaugural events.

Jay and Jay, Atlanta

We noticed some guys taking pictures at the World War II Memorial and decided to see what they were up to. We found out that they were friends from Atlanta, both named Jay. They made the 8-hour journey in the car on Saturday. Weirdly, that’s not that much longer than we spent in the car on our own trip from Athens.

Photo by Andrew Spear

Jay, 26, Atlanta

How does it feel to be in D.C. during Obama’s inauguration?
This is amazing to me. I’ve never been here. I thought it would be colder, and I didn’t know about all of this stuff – big rock buildings. All of this stuff is stone! I haven’t been out of Atlanta since ‘95. I went to college in Florida at Full Sail, a music school, and came right back. This is crazy. You see it on TV all the time, but it’s just wild. I’ll tell you, I’m not disappointed.

What do you do for a living?
I work at Comcast and I have a magazine, Street Therapy. [We cover] educational stuff for younger kids, hip hop and what’s going on in our community. It’s a DVD and Internet magazine.

What do you think about Obama being president?
I wanna see it! That’s why I drove here. I think he’s cool. There’s a first time for everything.

What changes do you hope to see Obama make?
I just hope that everything is fair. I don’t know how fast he can do it, but I hope that pretty much the less fortunate can get a bigger piece of the pie, so to speak. There’s a lot of little things that I can’t explain how I want to, but if he can do what he says he can do, then it should be some change for the country. He hasn’t showed me nothin’ bad yet.

His friend, also named Jay, had a lot to say, too.

Photo by Andrew Spear

Jay, 24, Atlanta

How does it feel to be here?
It feels great, actually. The way that everything is coming along and getting a hold of the history… [it's great] just to be here to experience it, you know?

What do you think about Obama’s first day in office being the day after Martin Luther King Day?
It’s pretty monumental. It’s definitely a big stride for African-Americans. We have a lot of things that we still need to work on though. It’s not over. It’s really just the beginning of the battle, so we’re kind of here in the forefront.

Is there any particular change you want Obama to make?
Community. Hopefully we can get a strong community and get us to all come together. We have minds; we just really have to utilize them. It’s the beginning of the battle though, and we have a lot of work to do.

What do you hope Obama does for the country?
We just need to get our foot back on the pedestal where America needs to be. We’ve lost a lot of respect over the war. I mean, look at our economy. We always used to be a superpower. Over the past 8 years, things have definitely decreased. We really just have to get our respect back over the world. That’s really what we have to do.

What are Obama’s best qualities?
Where I’m from we say Obama has “sway.” He has a mean sway. And I mean, just look at the way he carries himself. The way he talks, and the way he walks. He’s just smart. The thing that people forget too is that his wife is real mean. Michelle is just something else to be reckoned with. Between Barack and Michelle… well…(he laughs)

Why do you think Obama will make a good president?
I think the only man who can really get us out of the trouble that we’re in is Barack. You just have to see how everyone celebrated, not just within America. Even across the Middle East, even in Africa, even in Australia, even in South America. He’s really the only guy who can get us out of trouble.

Counting down

Kristin and I managed to beat the line for our tickets this morning. Thousands of people waited outside of Cannon Hall and the other Congress buildings to get through security before meeting with their Congressperson.

The crews were still tying up loose ends this evening. I've overheard people saying they plan to be downtown at 4 o'clock in the morning.

This is the line to the metro last night just after the concert/Obama's speech.

Valerie Long, Newfoundland, Canada

Photo by Andrew Spear
This is the first in a series of personal accounts from people we've talked to in the capitol.

At Sunday’s concert, concert I noticed Valerie Long dancing around with a Canadian flag in tow. She seemed pretty interesting, so we chatted with her for a while about what someone north of the border would be doing at the Inauguration. Like Andy and I, it’s her first visit to D.C. ever.

Why did you decide to come down?
I had to. It’s history in the making. I’m all the way from Newfoundland, all the way on the East coast. Celebrating my 50th birthday here was a gift, and it’s an opportunity to be a part of the world changing.

When did you leave?
I left about 5 a.m. their time this morning, and flew, checked into the hotel, and just came here. When it’s 10 p.m. here, it’s 11:30 in Newfoundland. We have our own time zone – a half hour to ourselves.

Would you say that most Canadians are excited about Obama?
Canadians have been smiling, laughing, and crying tears. Watching [Obama’s speech] yesterday, I thought “I’ll have my own tears, here.” We’re with you. We all feel that this is the opportunity for the world to change.

What are so many Canadians supporting him?
We’re his first stop. His first official visit is going to be to Canada and he knows that he has the north with him. We will forge a good working relationship and friendship because he understands that we’re smart and intelligent like he and Michelle are.

What do you think about the atmosphere here?
We just checked into the hotel, and said" let’s get right over to the Mall." And we walked in, and Stevie Wonder welcomed us, and then Bono. Who could ask for a better welcome?

Andrew Spear

Andrew Spear
Andrew Spear is a Midwest-based photographer currently studying photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication. A junior in the program, Andrew is also a staff photographer at The Athens NEWS, in Athens, Ohio. He splits his time between Athens and Cleveland, his hometown. Please click the image to view Andrew's portfolio. (Photo courtesy of Matt Eich)

Kristin Majcher

Kristin Majcher
Kristin Majcher is a junior studying magazine journalism at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Communication. Currently a staff writer at The Athens NEWS, she has also worked with The Post (Athens, Ohio) and Cleveland Magazine. She splits her time between Athens and her hometown of Cleveland.

Johnny Simon

Johnny Simon
Johnny Simon is a Midwest-based photographer currently enrolled as a senior photojournalism major at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. His work has been regcognized by the Southern Short Course in News Photography, NoTxt Magazine, the Corcoran Gallery FOCUS on Photojournalism and his adoring parents. Please click the image to see Johnny's portfolio.
All content © 2009 Andrew Spear, Kristin Majcher, Johnny Simon, and The Athens NEWS.

No reproduction without permission of the authors under penalty of law.