Jobs, unity, and hats: The 57th Inauguration - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Jobs, unity, and hats: The 57th Inauguration

Richard Curry attended the historic inauguration of President Obama in 2009, but he did not bring his children – they were too young. Fortunately for Curry, he got another opportunity Jan. 21 to share a similarly unique moment with his little ones.

“It’s the same but different,” said Curry of Baltimore, one of nearly a million people who crowded in and around The National Mall to witness Obama’s second inauguration.. “It’s such a wonderful experience that I had to bring my kids this time so that they can experience. They need to see this and remember this.”

His 8-year-old son Garrison appeared mildly interested in the events, but with all the fanfare of songs, 21-gun salutes, towering buildings and waving flags, the third-grader found something very un-third-grader-like as the most memorable part of his experience.

“I really liked his speech,” Garrison said. “I thought it was really good. I think he’s a good president.”

Obama spoke about many things, from caring for the elderly to improving the environment to ending war – each drawing varied cheers from the crowd – but he connected them all with a theme of unity and duty through faith.

“No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores,” Obama said. “Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”

Throngs of people poured out of the L'Enfant Plaza Metro stop Monday morning as they made their way to the National Mall. Several hours later, people would be denied access to L'Enfant Metro entrances due to overcrowding.

Throngs of people poured out of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro stop Monday morning as they made their way to the National Mall. Several hours later, people would be denied access to L’Enfant Metro entrances due to overcrowding. (Jason Flanagan)

As for bringing new jobs and business to American shores, that happened to be an issue many in attendance want Obama to address these next four years.

“I think he should do more to encourage small business,” said Linda Roberts, 68, of Kentucky. “… And I’m not sure how many jobs have been created, or if it’s just that people stopped looking for work. We need training for new jobs.”

Obama did speak of jobs in his address: “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

He also spoke of increasing the availability of sustainable energy as not only a way to preserve the environment but also to create and keep jobs shore-side.

“The economy is still sitting on my mind, but now he has another term and he can build on the things he’s done,” Curry said.

Among many of the attendees the shared thought was that Obama would be able to accomplish more things during a term when he’s not fighting for re-election. But with such sharp partisanship in Congress, there is a lingering concern that this term will feature the same visceral and derailing rhetoric.

“He shouldn’t have to face obstacles like party bias,” said Scott King of Owings Mills. “It’s almost like he’s [baseball great] Jackie Robinson in that he has to control his actions because if he were to go off like everyone else does to him, it would have negative connotations on him and the things he wants to do.”

Visitors exiting Union Station were greeted by National Guardsmen providing security for the inauguration.

Visitors exiting Union Station were greeted by National Guardsmen providing security for the inauguration. (Jason Flanagan)

Obama addressed the issue of political unity as well: “Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.”

Despite the concerns, the atmosphere at the inauguration was jovial as expected. The side effect of this happy vibe was a good measure of patience and courtesy in a city not known for its niceties, especially in the unique situations Monday’s event created.

The White House estimated 1 million people attended the inauguration (though that is not the official number), down from 1.8 million in 2009. It was visible on The Mall as people were able to enter much closer than in 2009. Still, there were more people in downtown Washington than what the infrastructure could handle.

Around 2:30 pm, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority shut down a couple of Metro rail stations, including the L’Enfant Plaza station – a major connection between four transit lines.

People crowded around the entrances to the station, often pushing the crowd forward. Some people cut their way through the line. But no shouts or fists were thrown. Earlier in the day, a woman was observed cutting ahead of an entire line of people waiting to buy a Metro farecard – a 20-minute wait – without so much as a protest.

Spectators had to exhibit a good measure of patience, especially those who were trapped on the wrong side of Pennsylvania Avenue, which was the route for the inauguration parade.

Though hundreds of thousand of people were on hand to witness President Obama's second inauguration, there were noticeably fewer people on The Mall. In 2009, this space in front of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum was filled with people. Security was still allowing people to enter this part of The Mall during Obama's swearing-in; four years ago, people had to enter several blocks away near the Washington Monument. (Jason Flanagan)

Hundreds of thousand witnessed President Obama’s second inauguration,  but there were noticeably fewer people on The Mall compared to 2009. Security was still allowing people to enter this part of The Mall during Obama’s swearing-in; four years ago, people had to enter several blocks away near the Washington Monument. (Jason Flanagan)

King and his wife Nancy trekked several blocks west of the U.S. Capitol only to be told they had to continue 10 more blocks in the same direction or back-track and go around the Capitol. The latter trek took this reporter an hour to navigate during last year’s inauguration.

After the ceremony, people flooded out of The Mall only to be met with security barricades and little direction. Many people headed north on 12 Street NW towards the Federal Triangle Metro station or beyond Pennsylvania Avenue only to be rebuffed by security directing them back the way they came. A queue had been set up for the Metro riders, but with no signs or verbal directions, it was easy to get lost and confused.

Fortunately for the spectators, the weather was a bit endurable than in the bitter cold of 2009. And for those who felt temperatures in the upper 30s were still too cold, a mainstay of the last inauguration was ready to accommodate them – for a price.

Just like in 2009, vendors lined nearly every street around The Mall hawking various goods: hats, t-shirts, buttons, posters, calendars, mugs, and even condoms. Though none of vendors queried would give their name for an interview, all agreed that business was good.

“Who doesn’t want to buy a button,” said one female vendor as she sold two large “President Obama 2013 Inauguration” buttons to another woman.

Hats were only a few of things vendors were selling along most streets in the District. T-shirts, sweatshirts, calendars, posters, buttons, and even condoms with President Obama's image were sold to visitors. According to several vendors, business was exceedingly good.

T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, calendars, posters, buttons, and even condoms with President Obama’s image were sold on the street. (Jason Flanagan)

Other vendors seized the opportunity to sell cold-weather necessities, such as hand warmers. A group of men were selling hot pretzels but not from a standard food cart. These vendors pushed grocery carts containing large metal serving trays filled with smoldering charcoal used to keep the pretzels warm.

It’s uncertain if Obama would approve of his likeness helping to stimulate the button-making business, but the 44th president concluded his second inaugural address with a call for action to turn his theme of duty and unity into a reality.

“Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright,” he said. “With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”


About the author

Jason Flanagan

Jason Flanagan has been a journalist for nearly 12 years. At the age of 19, he began working for The Prince George’s Journal covering sports and later covered crime and education. A graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Jason worked as a reporter and editor at The Diamondback and was recognized for his spot news coverage of the Beltway sniper in 2002. He has also worked at The Prince George’s Gazette, where he covered local and county governments, and most recently at The Baltimore Examiner, where he covered local and state governments as well as the military. Jason, a father of two daughters, is an English and journalism teacher and girls soccer coach at a high school in Maryland, where he constantly annoys students by correcting their writing and quoting long-since-dead authors. Follow Jason on twitter at @flanglish Contact the author.
COMMENT POLICY

HOME / ABOUT / CONTACT / JOIN THE TEAM / TERMS OF SERVICE / PRIVACY POLICY / COMMENT POLICY