Building Amazing Cities By JIM HUNT
author, speaker, consultant
While I wasn’t able to attend the most recent Presidential inauguration, I have attended two in my life.
My first was for President George W. Bush in 2005 and the second was for President Barack Obama in 2009. They were both exciting events and gave me an appreciation for the Constitution and the peaceful transfer of power in our country. The National League of Cities would host an inauguration party and as an officer and board member, I was invited to attend the event with other city officials from throughout the country. The National League of Cities offices were located on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a couple of blocks from the White House and the building had a balcony off the 7th floor.
For President George W. Bush’s inauguration, the crowds were large but it was not too difficult to get around Washington, DC. My daughter lived in Washington during this time and we stayed overnight at her apartment and took the Metro into the city. Security was evident but did not create too much of an inconvenience in getting around the city. We did have to be sure to get out of the right subway station, as Pennsylvania Avenue was blocked early in the morning and you could not cross the street. The weather was cold and we wore heavy coats and scarves.
We watched the swearing in from the Mall and it was a great experience standing with thousands of people seeing this historic event. We were quite a way back from the stage that was set up at the U.S. Capitol Building but we could watch on large screens that were set up on the lawn. After seeing the swearing in, we headed to the National League of Cities offices to get warm and have some lunch. The Inaugural Parade started around 1:00 PM and we decided to watch it from the comfort of the NLC offices. The parade lasted for several hours and we got to see the Presidential limousine, along with dozens of black SUV’s drive past our location.
The Inauguration of President Obama was a good bit different from President Bush, in that it was larger and featured the first African-American ever elected as President of the United States. The crowds were massive and security was at a heightened level which made it difficult to get around the city. Fortunately, the National League of Cities had secured rooms at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and once we made it to the hotel, we were in walking distance to most of the events.
The night before the Inauguration, my wife and I walked over to the White House and there was a buzz of activity with concerts and vendors selling every conceivable souvenir that you could think of. The weather was mild and we enjoyed watching the preparations for the events. We saw the Presidential reviewing stand and watched as workmen finished installing miles of fencing along the parade route.
On Inauguration Day, we awoke early and looked out our hotel window to see tens of thousands of people waiting in line to go through metal detectors before getting into the Parade area. We were fortunate to be staying in a secure area and did not have to stand in line. The Secret Service had checked out the hotel and the National League of Cities offices the night before and some of the employees had to stay in the offices overnight getting the party put together.
With such a large crowd, we decided to watch the swearing in from the offices of the National League of Cities and with over a million people on the Mall, we definitely made the right choice. The Inaugural Parade was exciting and we got to see President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama walking along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The inauguration of the President is not a partisan event and it is so inspiring to see people of all political parties celebrating democracy and freedom. It is an Amazing event and one that every American should make an effort to attend at least once in their life.