Inauguration Day in America

Old Post Office in Washington, D.C. in 2009. Today, it is the home of the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.

I have loved politics ever since I was five, probably because I’m a political news junkie. At different times I’ve been a conservative Republican, an independent thinker, and a rather liberal Democrat.

No, this is not a political blog (nor is it becoming one). And this is not intended to be a political post. It’s just my recounting of a few of my favorite political memories: attending presidential inaugurations in both 2001 and 2009. They were different experiences and, today, I’m in a unique position as I am not attending an inaugural of a new president for the first time since 1993.


2001: President George W. Bush

Invitation and Photo from 2001 Inauguration of
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

In 2001, my father and I travelled to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of George W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States. It was a cold January and we had booked a room in Virginia, taking subway in from the end of the line. When we got off the Metro, we made our way toward the Capitol. Although security seemed tight, the 9/11 attacks later that year would forever alter our collective perception of tight security. As a result, it may very well have been the last inauguration where you could maneuver from a position on the Mall to watch the inaugural then meander to Pennsylvania Avenue for a spot along the parade route.

We secured a position just behind the Capitol Reflecting Pool with an excellent view of the Capitol itself. Of course, we couldn’t see the individuals on the temporary stage – but we could feel the excitement in the air.

At the time, I was a junior at a private Christian high school. My family was conservative and I lived in a conservative, red state. I was among those who were quite happy that the Supreme Court had resolved Bush v. Gore in the way that it did. Americans were largely pleased the election was over and, despite the bitter election, Bush’s pre-inaugural approval ratings had jumped to around 65%.

I went to Washington that year with my father optimistic about America. It was thrilling to see a “peaceful transfer of authority” as President Bush called it in his inaugural that day. He said, “with a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings.”

During the course of the Bush presidency, my conservativism waned. In 2007, I switched my political affiliation in time to become a strong supporter of a lanky African-American from Illinois, Senator Barack Obama. His campaign challenged supporters to hope and to dream in America’s opportunity. He offered the “audacity of hope.”

2009: President Barack Obama

Almost immediately after his election was clear, my father-in-law and I plotted my return to Washington for the inaugural in 2009. We booked a room at a hostel near K and 11th streets and took the Amtrak train from Ashland, Kentucky to Washington, D.C. The train had originated in Chicago, Illinois and most aboard were “fired up, ready to go” for the inauguration of the 44th President. It was a festive mood!

My father-in-law joined for a photo with Rednecks for Obama in 2009. Washington, D.C.

We arrived in our Nation’s Capital on the 19th of January, one day before the inauguration. Due to a delay in the train’s arrival, we missed the concert at the Lincoln Memorial and instead my father-in-law and I meandered to many of Washington’s sites. It was an awesome evening, but we didn’t want to stay out too late.

We, and many others, were up by 6:00 a.m. to make it through the security lines. We’d hoped to make it to the Mall to watch the inauguration and I had strategized a plan to do so. The maps indicated there was a pedestrian cut-through across Pennsylvania Avenue (at least early) which would have enabled us to make it to the Mall. But so many people were in town for Obama’s 2009 inauguration that the Mall was filled to capacity (even despite our early morning start) and we ended up on Pennsylvania Avenue at 11th Street for about 12 hours.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Police keeping the peace at the 2009 inauguration.

But, as you can see, we were joined by some of Lexington, Kentucky’s finest who were working the rope line along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Our spot was directly across from the splendid Old Post Office (see picture at top of post), and loudspeakers allowed us to hear the swearing-in and the inaugural address that concerned the economic crisis and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As it turned out, that pedestrian cut-through was a blessing. Check out the pictures:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walking along Pennsylvania Avenue during the
2009 Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.
Vice President Joe Biden walking along Pennsylvania Avenue during the
2009 Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.

Yes, we were that close! It was an incredible, unforgettable experience! As the door to the Presidential limo was opened just beyond us to allow President Obama back into the vehicle, I caught a glimpse of Sasha’s peach coat jumping from one seat to another. She was having fun during this amazing experience and we certainly did as well!

The memories made in 2001 with my father and in 2009 with my father-in-law are forever. Unfortunately, the lack of a digital camera makes it exponentially more difficult to find the photos from 2001.

On this inauguration day, I think back to all of those memories made. Today, our spot across from the Old Post Office in 2009 will now witness something entirely different: a Trump-branded hotel and a President Trump.