Second Inauguration & Happy MLK Day!

Patriotic Nikki - Photo by Ashley Niels
Nikki on the National Mall – Photo by Ashley Niels

Four years ago I was on the national mall with millions of other people watching Obama be sworn in as our president. It was the most thrilling & inspiring event I’ve ever witnessed and I’m so thankful we got that opportunity to be there. I still hold that day in my heart – not just for the historical moment itself, but because out of all those millions of people, there was only one rude person. The rest were downright amazing. It’s incredible the things that bring complete strangers together and how, even on the coldest day of the year when everyone is cramped and freezing and uncomfortable, strangers will open their hearts to each other and go out of their way to help those who need it. I know where I wish I could be right now. I think Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud to share this day.

Happy MLK Day and Happy Inauguration Day, everyone!

Me being Patriotic.

And just to prove that I was, in fact, on the National Mall (in case you didn’t believe me), have a photo.

Me

Me, waiting for the inauguration to start. I didn’t know Ash was taking this picture, otherwise you would have gotten more of a smile from me. It was a cold day, but I was warm for the most part and the day was sunny and blue and beautiful. Yes, it was worth it. (Note the red, white, and blue scarf – see, I was patriotic!)

The Inauguration Experience.

Lots of people

I was there. Actually, we were on the right side of the mall where this picture was taken, near the Natural History museum. The number of people there was absolutely incredible. And, predictably, it was chaotic.

We left Crossville, TN at around 7pm on Monday and drove 9 hours throughout the night, arriving at the metro station in Fairfax, VA at about 4 in the morning. Actually, we arrived to the exit ramp for the metro at 4 and it took us an hour and a half to actually get a parking spot, it was that backed up (at 4 am!). We stood in line for awhile to get into the station and even longer while waiting for a train. When we did finally get onto our train, it broke down two stops later and everyone had to get off and wait for another train. Despite it being so ungodly early in the morning, everyone on our car was so excited and happy and willing to help each other. We all joked about the train and when we got back on our train car, people broke out into the Star Spangled Banner and cheered.

We got off our train just off of Virginia Avenue in DC and walked the couple of miles to the National Mall. There were so many people everywhere and the energy everyone gave off was one of excitement and hope and pride for the changes that were coming. Ash and I walked down the center of Independence Avenue holding hands with no fear, and I was just in awe of all the historic architecture and museums and impressive buildings. People looked at each other excitedly, strangers became friends with just a smile, and there were pictures of Obama around every corner.

The national mall was packed even with two hours to go before the inauguration started. Two million people were milling around the mall, talking and screaming and shouting and beaming happily, and cheering every time Obama’s face appeared on one of the many Jumbotrons. After much tramping around to get a good spot, we found a clear space off to the side by some trees just outside of the Natural History Museum. It wasn’t long after this that the event was kicked off by the US Marine Band and the San Fransisco Girls and Boys Choirs and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Rick Warren gave the invocation after the senator spoke, and I went into that speech with every bone in my body ready to hate it. Surprisingly, I was impressed and found myself really appreciating what he was saying. I can’t help but wish that he would take his own words to heart when he so passionately spoke about equality for all citizens, but maybe his relationship with Obama will help change his mind, and his heart. I thought it was a very moving speech. Aretha Franklin sang after that, beautifully, and and then Joe Biden was sworn into office. A large cheer went up over the crowd after that and the positive tension rose as the crowd knew that we were getting closer to the big moment. Only minutes until we had a new president.

The anticipation grew as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill performed a soul-inspiring song composed by John Williams (the man!) called “Air and Simple Gifts.” It was beautiful and there were people all around me with tears in their eyes.

And then the big moment. The president elect stood up before the citizens of America and recited these words:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The President

After Obama said that last word, the crying and applause rang out over Washington DC and a million tiny American flags were waved in the air as every single person there celebrated the new president of the United States (okay, so maybe those weren’t the exact words he spoke – but that’s not his fault and he did say them right later). I’m pretty sure that after this, not many people payed attention to what anybody else said into the microphone after Obama gave his inauguration address (which, while it wasn’t his best speech, it was still a good one). Elizabeth Alexander read a poem (rather badly) and Joseph Lowery gave the benediction. The event ended with the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters singing the National Anthem. By that time though, we were trying to get off the mall.

Everything kind of went downhill from there. Really, the problem was completely caused by the lack of organization that the cops and volunteers at the inauguration had. Most of the streets had been shut down for security and the parade (which we didn’t see at all), and the few exits they had were packed. Two million people wandered aimlessly around the mall and the streets and under bridges and on top of overpasses and nobody knew where they were going. The sun was going down and it was getting colder and for almost five hours we looked at maps and streets and tried desperately to find a metro station to get out of the city. They closed down many stations because they were packed or just not working and when we finally found the station we had arrived on, we waited in line for over three hours. It was cold, we hadn’t slept or had any food for over 24 hours, and we were miserable.

But throughout it all, every person we met and talked to remained in good spirits. Everyone, no matter who they were, was willing to put themselves out there to help a complete stranger. At one point, my Social Anxiety Disorder kicked in and I had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a plaza while being shoved from all sides. I lost it and couldn’t think straight and the next thing I knew, a woman had grabbed my arm and was quite literally line-backing people out of the way to get me to an opening. She kept asking me if I was okay and waited until Ash and Winnie and her mom found me again. It was scary, but everyone was so nice and calm and trying to make sure everyone else was okay. The spirit of the day had filled every person there and it was truly inspiring.

After we got into the metro station, we got onto a train relatively fast (though Ash nearly got smashed as the doors closed because we jumped on at the last minute) and ended back in Virginia where we started. It was almost unreal getting into our car and driving home – had we really just gone through all of that? Where we really there with all those people? It was insane, chaotic, and amazing. I switched back and forth for a long time whether it was worth it or not, but you know what, how could it not be when we actually got to be there to witness history in the making?

Barack Obama is our new president and already he is coming through on so many of his promises. Check out this site that Ash found earlier: Politifact Truth-o-Meter. It keeps you up-to-date with Obama’s promises and what he is continuing to do for our country. I’ve never really been that patriotic, but for the first time, I actually see a reason to be excited for where America is going. We can do this and we will. Things are going to be better than ever.

At Work

Of course, not all is good and we still have a lot of improvements to make. I was vastly disappointed when I read this blog article about the trash left on the mall. I mean, come on people. Clean up after yourself – isn’t that one of the biggest things we are suppose to be working for? Jeez.

There’s always tomorrow.

You are so Envious.

I apologize for the lack of posts this week, but it’s been a pretty busy week with hiking, a new puppy, lots of cleaning and laundry, and good food in big towns. But the biggest news is this. You all know what Tuesday is correct?

Good. Now guess where I’m gonna be Tuesday. Yes! That’s correct. Ash, me, and her mom and sister are piling into the car tomorrow and driving the ten hours to Washington D.C. to sit for hours on the National Mall to hear Obama speak and be sworn in as our new President. I am beyond stoked for this and absolutely thrilled that I’ll get to say that I WAS THERE. Seriously. Okay, so I won’t actually see Obama (or the parade, or any cool people, or the White House really), but I’ll be THERE. And that’s what counts.

So tonight we’re gonna pack and get everything planned out and pulled together so we’re ready in the morning. Right now I’m tired because of our crazy weekend out in the mountains (beautiful, beautiful mountains) and I’m gonna go eat.

Yay for crazy last-minute historic, life-changing plans!

There’s Always Hope.

In regards to this earlier post, I have re-evaluated my first instinctual response after a discussion with Ash’s mom on why Obama might have thought this was a good choice.

The fact is he is bringing together two long-opposing sides of a very popular argument. Maybe this is not a rash decision on his part, but instead a very VERY well-thought out step in the best direction. While being gay might make people think I’m a radical leftist, I am actually kind of conservative when it comes to a few political arguments. I think the extremists on both sides could learn from each other and a happy medium could eventually be found. With Obama inviting Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration and having such a strong gay community following him and supporting him, maybe the bigger picture he’s looking at involves a lot more hope than I would have guessed. Maybe his reasons behind this is actually an attempt to make each of the sides face each other on common ground and actually listen to what the other person has to say. In this way, maybe Warren will learn something about equality and the other side could learn something about putting faith into action. Or something like that (though I think they have definitely put faith into action, with a flair, of course). You know what I mean.

Maybe I’m just reaching for a good reason for all of this. Is this a reach? I have no clue. I can’t say it still doesn’t hurt though to have an anti-gay preacher who has compared gay marriages to incest and pedophilia speaking at our gay-friendly president’s inauguration.

But there’s always hope.

I Want a Robot.

No, I really do.

So anyone else absolutely appalled and hurt by Obama’s choice of speaker for his inauguration?

Rick Warren?

I keep waiting for someone to say it’s a sick joke.

In other news entirely, we’re gearing up to try and leave tomorrow, or at the latest Friday. But hopefully tomorrow. In celebration, I made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies tonight and we watched The Colbert Report and Whose Line Is it Anyway? and cuddle up under the blanket on the floor. It was really nice. I think I’m gonna head off to bed now. I’m tired.

But seriously. Rick Warren?! And this after Obama invites an LGBT marching band to play at the same event. And picks a transition team with several open and out members of the community. I understand he’s trying to play nicely with all sides, but couldn’t he have picked someone NOT Rick Warren? I wonder what his team thinks of that.

Ash is coughing. I hope she’s not getting sick. What a bad time for illness. Night all.

(Also, I wanted to add, I absolutely love Bruce Springsteen’s new song, “Working on a Dream.” It makes me happy whenever I hear it because it personifies perfectly my life right now. I just love it. It grows on me the more I hear it. Good song. Go look it up.)