On a cold morning on Monday, January 21st, I joined the audience gathered outside the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the American tradition of a Presidential Inauguration. The Inauguration is where the President and Vice President pledge to serve our country freely and willingly, and where one term of a President ends, and a new one begins. As my excitement and enthusiasm grew, so did the number of people. Crowds larger than I’d ever seen came early to find seats or a place to stand.
Inauguration Day started at the U.S. Capitol with the public swearing-in ceremony for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. New York Senator Charles Schumer, the chairman of the Congressional Inaugural Committee, told the audience that this year’s Inaugural theme is “faith in America’s future.” He called on all to remember that, no matter what issues the country faces, “America always rises to the occasion.” Then, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, said an opening prayer. After the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir performed, Vice President Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Then, musician James Taylor performed “America the Beautiful.”
The crowd erupted in cheers after Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to President Obama for his second term. For his Inaugural address, the President gave a speech about freedom and equality, and our responsibility to carry out those values. “While freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on Earth,” he said. Singer Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” and Richard Blanco, a poet, presented an original poem called “One Life” about common experiences in American life and the future of our country. Then, Reverend Luis Leon gave the Benediction, and singer Beyoncé closed the ceremony by singing the National Anthem. As the ceremony concluded, I turned back from my seat at the Capitol and watched the crowds, stretched as far as I could see, waving flags and cheering.
The celebration continued when the First and Second Families, members of Congress and other VIPs enjoyed a luncheon at Statuary Hall of the Capitol—a tradition that dates back to 1897. As the lunch was occurring, I joined herds of spectators trying to get to the Inaugural Parade route. After the luncheon, the First and Second Families paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House. Periodically, the President, Vice President and their wives exited their cars to walk the parade route and greet attendees. When they arrived at the White House, the Obama’s and Biden’s entered a special viewing box, where they could watch the remainder of the parade with their guests. Many school bands performed in the parade, including the Portsmouth High School Marching Band from my home state of Rhode Island. Floats from Hawaii, Illinois, Delaware and Pennsylvania represented key points in the President’s and Vice President’s lives. There was also a Martin Luther King Jr. float, which highlighted the special significance of this Inauguration Day, which coincided with Martin Luther King Day.
During the parade, I interviewed many young spectators who were in awe to be attending their first Inauguration (see my video report, below). They weren’t the only ones. This weekend was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It also served as a confirmation for me that I live in the greatest country in the world. I will always remember this experience, and the inspiration it has given me to serve others and work together with other Americans.
TFK Kid Reporter Bridget Bernardo reported from Washington, D.C., for the President’s second Inauguration and weekend celebrations. Click here to read a report on her special visit to the White House to talk with the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden. Click here to read her report on the National Day of Service. Click here to read her report on the Kid's Inaugural Concert.