Now after an equally contentious and even more dramatic win against 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, President Obama was sworn in for the second time on the steps of Capitol Hill on Monday.
At the President’s first inauguration, a reported record-breaking 1.8 million people attended the event. And while some predicted that this second inauguration wouldn’t be as robust as the first one, reports indicate that Monday’s inauguration still had nearly 1 million attendees.
Standing shoulder to shoulder throughout the National Mall, inauguration participants were both jubilant and cheerful about witnessing President Obama in the White House for four more years.
And the Obama loyals were as diverse as those who officially took part in the Inaugural pomp and circumstance. Just as my daughter, Mirembe, and son, Nalima, craned their necks to get a glimpse of daughters Malia and Sasha in their royal blue and pink overcoats, so did other pint-sized Obama fans, who ranged in age and race from chubby-fingered, wide-eyed boys and girls to preteens and teens who donned chic Obama tees, beanies, and wrist bands like they were at their favorite artist’s concert.
Conversely, the elderly — some in wheelchairs, some with walkers, and others still decisively on foot — also represented for the twice-in-a-lifetime affair.
And of course the mall was filled with everyone in between. I spoke with men and women from Atlanta, California, and Michigan, and they all had one thing in common: they had come from both near and far to take part in Obama’s historic second swearing in.
With the Capitol steps in the near distance, the crowd cheered when political powerhouse and Vice President Joe Biden and his family were shown descending down the steps in to position.
Obvious crowd favorites, though, included First Lady Michelle Obama and the aforementioned First Daughters. Brief sightings of Jay-Z caused two onlookers to playfully argue:
“Why is Jay-Z here?”
“Do you know Beyonce?”
“Well, if you know Beyonce, then you should know why Jay-Z is here. He wouldn’t be here otherwise.” [Laughter]
While the crowd maintained a respectful silence during Civil Rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams benediction, almost everyone broke out in laughter when cameras caught First Daughter Sasha yawning shortly after.
Order was restored, though, once the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sang their rousing rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and even though hundreds of thousands all stood together with food cartons strewn about and vendors yelling, “Buy your ‘I was there’ souvenirs here,” not a breath could be heard as President Obama repeated the time-worn words of 44 American Presidents before him as Chief Justice John Roberts swore him in.
Afterward, Obama supporters clapped in celebration at witnessing such an unforgettable event, with even babies seemingly crying out in unison from their strollers.
An admired orator, President Obama had much of the crowd in his hand as he resurrected the words of Dr. Martin L. King Jr., with a number of Black women sounding like they were hearing the gospel from their church pews on Sunday and punctuating each point accordingly:
“We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.”
“We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.”
“Tell the truth, Obama!”
“The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us.”
By Beyonce’s song, it was clear that the Americans who chose to fly, drive, and walk to the nation’s capitol did so because they collectively believe and trust in the President’s ability to lead and propel this nation forward.