Blogs by Hilary Hopkins

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The Inauguration: Being There

February 01, 2013 / The Inauguration: Being There

This is how it’s done. 

Some people decide they have the nerve and the competence and the gall to be President of the United States.  They gather friends and family round them and give it a try.  They fudge the truth a bit here and there, try to say what they mean and mean what they say, and exhaust themselves and the country in the process.  They shake hands and smile, and talk, endlessly.  They give up all privacy.  In the end, the people—that’s you and me and everybody we know—pick one of them.

The ones who aren’t picked, and their friends and others who believed them, suck it up.   Somebody wins, and the rest don’t, and because in America the majority more or less rules, and because we deeply believe in something we might term “fairness,” the losers suck it up, more or less graciously.

The losers do not stage coups.  They say, Wait for next time.

That was the easy part.  This easy part is crowned by a glorious day for our mature democracy, the Inauguration of the President.   That is what we went to witness.

Before dawn we joined rivers of people flowing to the Mall.  The illuminated Capitol, hung with bunting and flags, seemed a glorious apparition.  Behind us, the slender shaft of the Washington Monument shimmered in the dark. 

People kept on coming—family groups, big groups all wearing red hats, or pink ones, or whatever, not to lose sight of each other.  Old people came on canes, with their grandchildren.

We found a good spot, in front of a jumbotron, and the sun rose, and the white buildings along the Mall gleamed.  In front of us were three young people from Dallas; behind us, a Black family from Chicago.  Next to us, a group of five from Indianapolis.  A man in a wheelchair settled on the other side, with his wife.  We introduced ourselves.  We took pictures of each other.  There was an air of festive anticipation.

Flag waving at inaugurationSmall American flags appeared, first at the edges of the crowd, and then diffusing throughout.  We all used our flags as applause—if your hands are muffled by mittens you can’t clap very effectively.  Sometimes the picture of all of us, stretching down the Mall, appeared on the big screens, and we all yelled louder and waved our applause flags more vigorously.   Our image sparkled and glittered!  We were excited!

Many languages were heard, and different kinds of faces were seen; we were pressed shoulder to shoulder, and vendors snaked their way through the crowd selling hand-warmers.  Somebody passed around a box of crackers. 

Dignitaries appeared on the screens as they arrived at the great podium; they were introduced and among us it did seem a partisan crowd: some of those dignitaries were quietly booed and others enthusiastically cheered.

A limousine, a really big one with a lot of big vehicles around it, turns up on the screen.  Instant wild applause: it’s him!  Is it him?  I think it’s him!

Yes, it is.  They appear in front of us: in front of We, The People.  His wife looks sober, somber.  He is older than his years.  His little girls are radiant, for as yet they cannot comprehend what it is their father is about to undertake on our behalf.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, spoke.  He said, “There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection…a moment that is the most conspicuous and enduring symbol of our democracy…how remarkable that this has survived for so long in such a complex country with so much power at stake—this freedom to vote for our leaders and the restraint to respect the results.”  He quoted George Washington thus: “’The peaceful transition of power is what will separate this country from every other country in the world.’”

Yes, this is how it’s done.  This is how we do it.  


  • Chip 10:22pm, 04/09/2013

    Times of Fruition indeed!


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