Laurie Childers’ impressions of Obama’s Inauguration…GREAT STORY!!!


We came to know Laurie Childers through her singer-songwriter CD ,,Are You Satisfied?” She, her husband and their kids live in Oregon, but have travelled the world, especially the ,,hot spots” on this planet, doing whatever they could to right the wrongs their fellow countrymen and others inflicted to the weak and the poor. Her story about Obama’s inauguration is much more than a tale of a trip with historical dimensions, it actually gives you an insight into a new America, a nation of peace, openness, hope and dedication. Laurie gave explicit permission to post her story, but in a later mail she wrote something that particularly struck me: ,,…However I was born in Kansas, and my parents are Kansans

(although they live in Texas 7 months of the year and escape to
Colorado in the summers), and we visited my grandparents every summer
so I know Kansas, the geographical center of the country.   Aside from
the abortion issue, Obama is their friend, but they don’t know it yet.
  I’m working on my correspondents who have so much trouble with his
race and their assumptions he will pull the country toward socialist
It’s a long way to Tiperary, indeed…
But here’s the story in full. Please read it in full so that the last paragraph will ring through as it should: LET’S KEEP IT ALIVE!    


,,This is my mass blind email to all who wanted a report, and a few

others too.  I am so very grateful to three people especially:

Bennett in DC who invited me, probably having no idea what he was

getting into; Harry in Louisiana, my compassionate conservative

Republican high school friend who both insisted I must go and on paying

for my plane ticket; and my husband who asked me incredulously, "why

are you hesitating?"   So began this great adventure back in November.


Why hesitate?  I was slow to support Obama, not that I felt any strong

allegiance elsewhere.  He won my support over time by his consistent

dignity, starting with his speech about race and holding fast through

the long campaign even when his opponents desperately accused him of

the worst.   I liked his support for renewable energy and specifics

about getting away from oil dependency, which I consider the only

intelligent path.    I was sent every nasty accusatory email viral

about Obama between January and November, and researched them all.  I

found them vacuous, as well as contradictory to each other.  I was

deeply grateful for a campaign that stayed out of the gutter.   Still,

I didn’t qualify as a hard-core tireless early supporter.   Now that I

see Obama in action, I am so appreciative of those that were.


Also, I dislike crowds, and although I love the Smithsonian I don’t

love big cities.   Yet ironically, my favorite parts of the week were

being in the crowds on the Metro and on the Mall and on the sidewalks.

   The centuries of racial barriers dissolved there.  Ditto for signs of

social class:  wearing mink coats or thrift-shop fleece,  we made eye

contact and smiled and exchanged stories and touches and even hugs

sometimes.   We strangers of many races talked about what we were

experiencing and concurred that we were witness to a turning point at

which NOBODY could assume there was such a thing as a second class

citizen anymore.    We were experiencing a pivotal transformation:

centuries of grief and fear that started with enslavement, into joy and

celebration.    And that was just with the symbolism of a black person

taking the presidency – an ultimate fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s

dream.  "I have a dream/the dream has come true."  The lightness of joy

moved me to tears many times, especially whenever I was hearing

beautiful music.


We who made the effort to be there also shared the thrill and relief of

having this particular person stepping into the White House, vs. what

the other options were – and as cautious as I was throughout the

too-long campaign, I have to say that I loved hearing what Obama had to

say at both speeches this week.  I found them appropriate, even wise,

and I’ve not had that response to a presidential address, ever.   I

would think a true conservative would be equally thrilled and relieved

to hear what he was saying and advising.   I’m as fiscally conservative

as anyone I know, so I’m very happy to hear a president tell us to be

prepared for the axing of government programs that aren’t effective.

Who better to shake off what’s wrong about welfare.   I don’t know how

anyone can read socialism into what he says.   I hear him talk about

not expecting government to solve problems, that we need to do them

ourselves and in our communities, and spend our money on things that

matter.   To put away childish things, to enter into an era of



Yes, I know, there will be disappointments.  There already have been,

and they are expected.   My MO for these is to remember what would

likely be happening if we had President McCain/Palin instead.    (Some

of you might be thinking longingly in that direction . . . )


Some favorite memories:


Visits and meals with old friends that live near DC.    As always my

perspectives are widened and my heart nurtured.


Watching the Sunday afternoon concert on a Jumbotron next to the

Washington Monument, and realizing this wasn’t just a celebrity

lovefest, these songs were purposefully full of love and joy and hope

and unity.   It was a ceremony of uniting people of different

subcultures, paying homage to the future more than the past and

present.   Obama’s speech also moved me to tears.  He is saying what so

many of us have been working towards for decades.  That’s when I

started laughing at myself.   All through the campaign I’d felt very

"ho hum" about the buzzwords of "hope" and "change."   Like hooks in a

popular song, they were easy to memorize but meaningless.   The real

stuff was in the middle of his speeches, the parts that the media

ignored.   Yet there on the Mall, I realized that what I was feeling

that was moving me to tears, was hope – that just maybe we would stop

making enemies faster than we can kill them around the world, that

maybe we’d stop destroying the natural world we depend on for life,

that maybe the voices that unite us would attract more followers than

the voices that divide us, that the parts of our country that we

treasure would be enhanced.   And I was sensing a profound change:

the no-turning-back kind of dignity that people of every race felt free

to share with each other, and to expect of each other.   I am still

laughing, thinking maybe hope and change were what it was all about

after all.


Monday afternoon there is a pagan ceremony on the plaza in front of the

Jefferson Memorial.  We attend some of it.   My favorite part was a

sharp-witted speaker who remarked, "Dedication is the antidote to

fear."   I realize I prefer the word dedication to hope, as it is

active rather than passive.


Monday evening we attend an interfaith ceremony at All Souls Church,

Unitarian, on 15th and Harvard NW.   I am connected with the Fellowship

of Reconciliation and they are one of the sponsors.  There are many

speakers, representing many religions, and many of them are great – but

there are too many speakers.  I hear the sentiment several times that

"we have elected an intelligent and moral man" – and that feeling of

hope and change (and dedication) sinks in a little deeper.  The musical

interludes are incredibly good, their voices move me to tears, whether

it’s the childrens’ choir or the remarkable soloists.   One of them is

Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock.


Tuesday morning, 6:30 am on the Metro, headed to the Mall.   We can

hear that the car next to us is the party car;  loud, happy noises

carry through the metal doors.  We are all sleepy but grinning.

Suddenly a woman near me hollers out, "ROLL CALL!  Who’s here from

Virginia?"  Voices cheer.   "South Carolina?"   Cheers.   I of course

cheered for both Oregon and Louisiana.   The woman announces at some

point, "I am NOT a morning person, people.   This is really hard for

me."   We all laugh.


We get to L’Enfant Station and end up being stuck there underground for

an hour, amassed together.   A few times we chant, "let us out!" but

the crowd is generally self-policing, calling for patience, reminding

ourselves that the excess warmth of the moment will be greatly

appreciated once we are in the cold air.  Reminding ourselves how

wonderful it is to be there, no matter where we will end up, that we

have made our statement by coming.  It’s quite some time before we

learn there’s been a medical emergency on the non-moving escalator.

We end up conversing with everyone around us.   Some Southern black

women behind me are so moved by my story that they want their picture

taken with me.   There is a family near us, three generations (I was to

encounter many of these) with a 3-year old boy on his dad’s shoulders.

I remark that this event might end up being his earliest memory.   I

notice that a man near us bears a striking resemblance to MLK Jr.  It

turns out he’s an MLK Jr impersonator.


We get out to Independence Ave. at 8 am.   Our intention was to head

toward the Capitol but EVERYONE is headed the other direction.    There

are volunteers with florescent yellow vests that have small signs

pointing the way to get in – so we head with the crowd after all.   We

walk in on 12th St and then walk toward the Capitol, passing one

Jumbotron and heading east.   When we get in front of the Hirshorn

Museum, moving forward is clearly coming to a stop – so we maneuver

north to get closer to the Jumbotron and position ourselves between the

speakers.  Sunday’s concert is being replayed and I get to see some

earlier acts I’d missed.   The joy and excitement keeps building.  As

more people enter the Mall behind us, we are subtly moved forward and

get a better view of the huge screen.   We can see the Capitol ahead

emerge through the morning haze.     The cold weather eventually

convinces me to use the "hotties" that generate heat for our toes and

hands.  (Thank you Steve R!  The perfect gift!)  17 F with the wind

chill factor.  My layers of silk, wool, and fleece do their job.


The sun comes out and it’s glorious.   I call home in Oregon (<10 am/7

am) right before it starts, and learn that Julia will get to watch it

at high school, and Jordan is more interested in the music he’s

listening to.  I do my best to convince him that this is one morning

that it’s worth listening to NPR instead.   I cry when I start to

describe to John what it’s like to be there.      (Jordan does get to

watch it after all.)


I now see why so many people bought little American flags from the

street vendors.   They wave them rapidly to accompany their cheers.

As the screen showed the arrival of the dignitaries, the people around

us named the ones they recognized.   The Clintons both got many cheers.

   Colin Powell got many cheers.  Clarence Thomas’ arrival was met with

dead silence.   I mutter to Bennett, "Not my favorite."  A dreadlocked

fellow in front of me turns and says, "Mine neither."   When GW Bush

and Cheney show up, we can hear on the speakers "boo" – and a little

booing starts in our area, but many voices rise, saying "That’s not

Obama’s way."  "Obama wants to include everyone."  "Let’s stay

dignified."   The negativity of the booing WAS an unwelcome change,

even though we could also feel the great restraint, the understatement

of it.  Behind us to the north, a group is singing, "Sha na na na . . .

hey hey, goodbye."   This causes laughter and resonates with the

elation.   Every brief appearance of W or Cheney prompted an equally

brief "sha na na na" and laughter.


The ceremony itself – from the medieval trumpets, to the remarkable

quartet piece, to the Chief Justice jumbling the oath, to Obama’s

cautionary but inspiring speech – was theatre, history, and history in

the making.   I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else but among the

throngs listening and cheering.    Later I get to hear from friends in

the seated section up front what they saw.   And I hear how many with

tickets missed it, including the friends who’d offered me a ticket

Sunday.   I’d turned it down, because there was only one available, and

I wasn’t going to abandon my host.  Lucky us.  I hear later that there

was not one arrest among the estimated 1.8 million attendees.


Tuesday evening we head to Arlington for the BiPartisan Ball that

Bennett and I and some friends organized.  We’d all invited our

friends, and they could invite friends.  About 60 came, the live music

was wonderful (thanks, Jimmy!).   Our borrowed cardboard Obama (thank

you Hank and Michelle!) was a busy guy – getting his photo taken with

all combinations of guests – and then he got shipped off to Australia

in the morning.


Wednesday we slept ‘till the crack of noon.   I went back for a nap in

the afternoon.


On the plane Thursday morning I asked an elegant black couple if they

had a great week.  "Fabulous!" they grinned back.  We talked about the

marvel of so many happy people connecting with each other so easily.

"Let’s keep it alive," I suggested.  She squeezed my arm.  "Yes, let’skeep it alive." ”

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