At inauguration, thrills and chills
In the dark, frigid early hours of Tuesday morning, Princetonians descended upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to gain as close of a vantage point as possible to President Barack Obama’s historic inaugural address as the first African-American chief executive of the United States.
As millions of people crowded the space between the Capitol and the Washington Monument and cheered, Obama focused his remarks on the many challenges currently facing the nation, including the continuing economic crisis. “Every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms,” Obama said gravely during the first minute of his speech.
He listed the problems plaguing the United States, including fighting wars “against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred,” the economic downturn, the high cost of healthcare and energy policies that “strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”
Obama then spoke of “a sapping of confidence” and a “nagging fear” among Americans that the country’s decline was inevitable.
He pledged, however, that the challenges lying ahead would be met and that he would not forget previous generations’ sacrifices toward building a strong nation.
Drawing parallels to the nation’s formative years, Obama called the current time the “winter of our [country’s] hardship” and touched on themes including service, sacrifice and determination.
Obama also addressed the global audience, stressing the need for international cooperation on major issues like nuclear nonproliferation, climate change and conflict resolution.
“We have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united. We cannot help but believe that ... as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself,” Obama said.
During Obama’s swearing-in ceremony, conducted by Chief Justice John Roberts, many in the crowd were wiping away tears or smiling. Obama paused briefly after Roberts stumbled over a phrase in the oath of office, but Roberts quickly realized his mistake, and the rest of the oath continued smoothly. As Obama completed the final phrase, cheers erupted as he waved to the millions of people gathered on the National Mall.
Tigers on the mall
English professor Jeff Nunokawa attended the inauguration and said in an e-mail Monday night that he believed in the possibility of healing the nation and that he was traveling to Washington to join in that process.
“I think of going as a kind of pilgrimage. We live in an anxious and cynical world, and in the midst of this ... I feel urged to affirm my faith in the healing possibilities and honorable elements of my nation’s political sphere,” Nunokawa said.
Nick Slavin ’11, who also attended the inauguration ceremonies, said in an e-mail Monday that he looked forward to the long train ride, the speech and the “uncontrollably large crowd.”
“Obama’s stepping in to the oval office will easily mark one of the most progressive days to which the US has been privy,” Slavin said.
Jonathan Goh ’11, Gabrielle Chen ’12 and Lauren Pinckney ’12 followed a surging crowd that trampled down the fences separating ticket holders from those without tickets. Goh is also an associate photography editor for The Daily Princetonian.
They had only 15 people between them and the Reflecting Pool during Obama’s inaugural address. By running with the moving crowd, the three were able to see the stage from in front of the pool across from the Capitol and also ran on top of the frozen water.
“Everyone was really happy and excited. It was a really special moment,” Pinckney said. “It was my first election that I was part of, so it was cool to be so involved.”
“Every time we got closer, it felt even better,” Chen, who had stayed up all night to finish an architecture final before boarding the bus at 4:45 a.m, said. “It was completely worth it.”
— Josh Oppenheimer contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.
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