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Destination Inauguration

 Thank you to ‘Anonymous’ for letting us know about the fun, on-the-scene coverage of the Inaugural festivities by Kim Fassler ’06.

Here’s a teaser below, but be sure and click on to the site. Fassler’s enjoyment is contagious and she has a lot of terrific photos. Great entertainment: Sheryl Crowe, Will.i.am, Garth Brooks, Bono, Beyonce…I truly wish I was there (with my fur-lined boots)!

Today was also something of a test-run for Tuesday. After standing outside for four or five hours today, I think I have some idea of how I’m supposed to dress to stay warm. Heading back to my apartment after the “We Are One” concert, my feet felt like blocks of ice. But it was the first time I had seen everyone in the city turn out at once. The sight of those thousands and thousands of people packed into the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument took my breath away.

Happy Birthday Dr. King! Considering the day, this historic occasion is especially poignant.

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#1 Comment By PTC On January 19, 2009 @ 8:37 am

Outstanding. I wish I was there.

Kim- For that kind of cold and standing still you are going to want 1000 gram or better for footwear.


Wear multiple loose layers… have a Balclava, a good hat and a parka with a hood. Good gloves as well, and either a set of mittens to put over them or good pockets.

Have a great time!

#2 Comment By frank uible On January 19, 2009 @ 10:55 am

Everyone ought to take a short holiday from time to time, but on Wednesday the sun will rise, our nation will continue to have short range and, more importantly, long range problems of a major nature, and I’m sure that I will then see no plan of remediation developing, much less in place and working, except for some kind of childlike euphoria.

#3 Comment By sophmom On January 19, 2009 @ 11:23 am


Have you ever attended a presidential inauguration?

#4 Comment By JG On January 19, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

I got to the security line by the Lincoln yesterday at about 7:15 or 7:30 am. I was wearing three shirts, a fleece, and a 3/4-length wool coat over stockings and jeans w/ 2 pairs of socks. I had a wool hat, 2 scarves, and 2 pair of gloves as well. In other words, it was COLD. I was still kinda shivering most of the day. After many hours in the cold, the major crush of people had arrived and our square of real estate on a hill to the right of the stage near the front 1/3 of the reflecting pool quickly was encroached upon. We kept ourselves warm jumping around, curling up in blankets, and munching granola bars and fruit. One of our friends decided to be a good little capitalist (doing her part to help the economy) and sold hand warmers. I highly recommend them to anyone else heading out tomorrow.

Anyhow, the cold was somehow worth it, despite the lack of feeling in my feet by the end. The readers and performers all seemed just thrilled to be there. There were some random choices (Jack Black & Rosario Dawson – really? and paired up??) and some overly-done readings (seriously Tom Hanks, we get that you’re a serious AC-TOR!) but overall the show was great. What a fun mix of stars, both old and new. The various duets and trios were fun. We’re taking bets on whether the recordings are going to be available tomorrow or not ;)

Today was the Day of Service, and I’m thrilled that something like this was made part of the day. I’m going to try to watch the fun people arrive tonight at the Hilton. Apparently the McCain dinner is there. They have disallowed parking near my building and a few blocks around. I might bail out and go to a party, but seeing the “stars” might be fun.

I’m off to the parade tomorrow…I scored tickets on Craigslist for more than the $25 price but not too much more (i.e. not the $200-400 a pop that some put out there). Should be fun :)

#5 Comment By Parent ’12 On January 19, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

JG- Thanks for the lively details. I hope the continued excitement helps to keep you warm. I look forward to reading more.

#6 Comment By sophmom On January 19, 2009 @ 2:55 pm


Look for my friend A—-whom you met when last I saw you. Just thousands and thousands of faces, right? No problem picking hers out.

She and her daughter decided to make the trip after all. She called me at the last minute for surplus gloves, hats and warm scarves. Having been raised in a warm clime, she is petrified of the cold. LOL, from what you and Fassler say, I daresay she is (frozen) solid by this time.

What a great time!

#7 Comment By Ronit On January 19, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

Thanks for posting this. She’s been added to Eph Planet.

#8 Comment By frank uible On January 20, 2009 @ 2:15 am

sophmom: No – I’m not much into adulation nor am I enthusiastic about parties for masses of people, irrespective of their nature.

#9 Comment By JG On January 20, 2009 @ 8:16 am

Looking at the crowds already (by 8am) and the Mall is nearly full to the Washington Monument already. They expect it to get to the Lincoln possibly. So glad I have actual tickets to the parade…oddly excited and scared of the hordes at the same time :)

I’ll report and post pics this afternoon hopefully (provided I and my camera make it out alive).

#10 Comment By sophmom On January 20, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

Frank @8:

Yup. Adulation, masses of partying people…isn’t that akin to a large football crowd?


I looked for you! The crowd looked glorious…and cold. Funnily, one of the msnbc hosts mentioned the big sales on hand warmers.

Send pix please.

#11 Comment By frank uible On January 20, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

Don’t like large crowds, football ones or others. Have attended the Michigan-Ohio State game several times both in Ann Arbor and Columbus, along with hundreds of other games between teams from all the major football conferences. Prefer the modesty of games between Williams and any of its NESCAC opponents for several reasons among which is the lack of a relatively large crowd.

#12 Comment By Dick Swart On January 20, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

There’s something about Obama:

My son-in-law (absentee ballot) felt compelled to come over. Joins with old Clinton Advance buddies, does the Baltimore stop of the train trip (gets picture taken), stays on for
MLK and today. Sez cold but exciting. Gets plane back to Jolly Olde this pm.

#13 Comment By nuts On January 20, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

#14 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On January 21, 2009 @ 1:18 am

^^^ Re-read Arendt, On Revolution, pp.55ff; then listen to Obama’s comments on the judgments of forefathers again (stop at, and look up, footnote 41; confer, ‘Between Past and Future’).

#15 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On January 21, 2009 @ 3:46 am

Ahem. http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/the-speech-the-experts-critique/. I find something lacking here, in that “we” only poll … the opinion of…

… without Sorensen… ?

has the United States become a province?


#16 Comment By frank uible On January 21, 2009 @ 5:21 am

Wikipedia says that Sorensen “assisted with the writing of Obama’s Inaugural Address”.

#17 Comment By kthomas On January 22, 2009 @ 3:30 am

Frank: indeed Sorensen did, and that fact reminds me of the many political “realities” that mean Sorensen and others could not comment in the NYT compilation.

But: why not one or two speechwriters from a nation other than the United States? Surely… surely while the political reality prevent many from commenting on their participation, we could have the opinion of an adviser to Adenauer or de Gaulle, Sarkozy or Merkel, Jaobang, Jintao, Bhutto, the Ghandis, Arafat, Youseff, …

Sorensen’s comment in his biography of Kennedy– elaborated a bit more in his memoirs– which I’ve already mentioned here– was that, while preparing Kennedy’s Address, his review of previous US addresses revealed that they were heavy on rhetorical flourish, low in … substance.

I’ve had a little time for reflection on my similar course in the past two days– not enough to write it up. I’m skeptical of Obama’s Address– which had years of preparation, much more than ours– but also dismissive of the criticism in the NYT.

To just say it: the two documents I worked closely with were Obrador’s planned first Address to the Nation, and the October 11th appeal published in the NYT. (In my opinion, the NYT butchered the piece, … and this was a terrible display of the loss of journalistic integrity. I’m not going to comment on what it took, simply to get it published).

The First Address– the Eleven Points — the contrast here strikes me as how much more we focused on concrete needs, “achievables,” goals– and explaining them and their ‘necessity’ to “the People.” Among them: reducing Federal spending by 5% per year, without question, for each year of our planned Presidency.

I don’t think we focused enough– as far as “speeches never delivered” matter– on the larger perspective, on the global picture, on the relation fo the concrete examples to the overall course. But — by Obrador’s Inauguration– I was surprised, and heartened, by — the fact that a million people could stand “as a crowd,” attentive, for hours, listening to a complex and long Address, struggling to comprehend and respond to its Points. (As much as I can speak for those million; I can speak for a few specific individuals and interactions in that crowd).

The response to the October 11th editorial was twofold: on the one, the Calderon camp was livid at — and placed enormous pressures, in response, on the NYT and diplomatically– at the line which called for an international response. In contrast and alas: the same call alienated the “hardliners,” the “nationalists” in Obrador’s coalition, who believe that Mexico must act as an independent nation-state, without the aid of other nations.

I was essentially “cut out of the process,” after that… let me say: as much out of my failure to act, out of my lack of action and vision, as the forces above. Which is to say: I was not “cut out” so much as “I failed to act” and present a concrete, viable series of alternatives.

What I wish I had done– the possibility I saw, but failed to create– was on the one hand a series of appeals and editorials, in the publications of the world and in many languages, appealing to the history of many traditions– that much I saw– and the harder part, which I still do not see– concrete actions in Mexico to contest and share power, to get things done–

to reply a bit to PTC and ‘nuts’ comments– one of the choices we faced, was whether to initiate war– in which I played Robespierre and Churchill for a few days, and have wondered if I was terribly irresponsible, given the consequences. I’ve started to wonder, in opposition to this– if more lives are about to be lost, because we did not act.

One side of that equation is that we would have risked an internal conflict that could be contained– that would have been immediately a regional conflict– that would risk expanding into a world conflict. The other side– is that the risk has not been contained, that our inaction– our indecision– has led to greater instability, a fundamental threat to the security of nations. The Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency has now said it– but not in frank or clear enough terms– the situation in Mexico threatens world security as much as the situation in Iran.

I cannot find a simple explanation– a few words– but it does not boil down to “the war on drugs.” But is there any question– if the mountains of southern Mexico are not governable, not under Federal control– is it not obvious that– the “training camps” will locate there?

My fear is that is has already begun– that the series of bombings and so forth, which are barely reported– are clearly the signature of worldwide organizations, and things to come.

“We” were also– simply unprepared for the coup, and I am still trying to draw out the lessons there. If there had been a little less ‘hope,’ quite a little less desperation to believe that Mexico had achieved the stability of the transition of power exemplified by US– and a great more determination, realism and RealPolitik, we would have thought through the possibility of an assault on suffrage and power– and ‘legitimacy’– and prepared our response.

But: these matters are linked. — our lack of an effective course of action threatened the stable transition of power in the US– already threatened– and still affects the security of the United States and the world, despite the evient restoration of succession in the US.

Not at all to say that ‘we’ did not engage in enormous preparations; the six years of planning– of trying to Address the economic necessities– what worries me, when I look at the Administration Obama has assembled– is that they have not prepared as much–

a footnote then, on the process of composing Presidential Addresses — what struck me in looking at Sorensen’s memoirs, vs. our process– was how narrow the Kennedy-Sorensen relationship was (given: how broadly Sorensen searched for and assembled resources), vs. the Obrador’s administration’s call to, and inclusion of, a far larger and multi-national group.

“Surely” the fault here is that the “hardliners” in Obrador’s coalition would have bridled at the multi-national scope of “the team”– that a norte-americano, like myself, (and many others), could be so close and integral to the process– but– (in brief summary)– the possibility was that “the best interest of all” was served by our divided loyalties–

and so I’ll ask– can a provincial group of alliances, assembled in Hyde Park and around the University of Chicago, mixed with the microcosms of Washington– possibly be enough, to Address the situation? Or do We– practically– still need much more?

#18 Comment By frank uible On January 22, 2009 @ 5:24 am

When in October of 2002 Sorensen appeared and spoke at Williams on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he looked so physically frail that I was mildly surprised in Wikipedia’s claim that he contributed to Obama’s inaugural address.

#19 Comment By Dick Swart On January 22, 2009 @ 11:09 am