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Inauguration Journal: Sunday

by Jo Freeman


The 56th United States Presidential inauguration has turned Washington, DC into a four-day festival, with all the numbers, security and events of the two political conventions last summer. There are some key differences. There are a lot more people and no delegates. Events are more decentralized, as many groups do their own thing. Army troops are directing traffic in place of police. Even more of downtown Washington is closed off than was true of Denver and Minneapolis but the barriers are waist high rather than ten feet. Outside the security zone, police cars with sirens wailing dash everywhere. Its also a lot colder, and anyone who wants to go anyplace is doing a lot of walking.

The highlight of Day One, Saturday, was the Obama/Biden train tour from Philadelphia to DCs Union Station, but plenty else was happening. The Progressive Democrats of America held their two-day leadership conference at the University of the District of Columbia. The Peoples Inaugural Gala Weekend and Ball segued from a Prayer Breakfast to a Womens Leadership Luncheon at a downtown hotel.

Planned Parenthood and the National Council of Womens Organizations were among the many groups who held their own balls Saturday night. The National Congress of Black Women held its ball on Friday night. While the ticket prices are about half that of the ten official balls, every good cause from the Greens to the Gays sees the chance to celebrate as a chance to raise money.

On Sunday I went to the Emilys List luncheon which was another sold-out fundraiser. While I was closed out as press from the equivalent function at the Democratic Convention, I got into this one. I was repeatedly asked by twenty-something Emily volunteers what Senior Women Web was. I pointed out that our target audience of women over fifty described a majority of Emilys donors.

As a major source of funds for pro-choice Democratic women, Emily can command their presence at their events. This lunch had top political women ranging from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Senator Hillary Clinton. They all told some good stories. Two new women from North Carolina, Gov. Bev Purdue and Sen. Kay Hagan, described how with Emilys help women had turned their state blue.

The main political point was made by Ellen Malcolm, Emilys founder and President. She told her audience that those elected to the state legislatures in 2010 will be redrawing the Congressional Districts for 2012. If the Democrats want to keep the Congress, they need to win in the states in 2010.

After the luncheon I walked to Dupont Circle where the "Shoe Bush" crowd was inflating a giant Bush balloon in preparation for Mondays action. They were having a little trouble keeping it up.

I walked down 19th St. to the Mall, just to see if I could still get into the opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. From K St. down there was a military vehicle blocking every intersection and people in fatigues directing traffic, deciding which vehicles were authorized to pass. Tied to their pockets was a paper tag which said 'Special Police.'

By the time I got to the National Mall, the opening concert was coming to an end. All entrances had been closed since 2:00 p.m. and those who couldnt get in were milling about on Constitution Ave. While the military guarded the entrances, civilians wearing 'Volunteer' tags repeatedly told the crowd to see the show from screens on the Washington Monument grounds. Private vendors of Obama souvenirs did a booming business. I could hear the tail end of Obamas speech from outside the barricades many blocks away.

Pete Seeger sang This Land is Your Land to close the event. The combination of the first African American to be elected President followed by the 89-year-old folksinger who had been convicted for "contempt of Congress" in the year Obama was born made one believe that the Sixties had triumphed after all.

©2009 Jo Freeman for SeniorWomenWeb,



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