By Andrew Giacomini, Chair, Bay Area Council Government Relations Committee
January 19, 2009 – MLK Day -Washington DC
Remember that movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?” Just like young Charlie, thanks to Senator Feinstein, last Wednesday my wife Susi and I learned that we had been awarded 2 Golden Tickets to the inauguration of Barack Obama. As we loaded the car Sunday morning, my neighbor Carl was in front of his house bouncing his young daughter on top of the leaves in his Green Waste can. Carl was the first neighbor on our block to put up his Obama for President sign, way back before Iowa. “Where you headed?” he asked. I told him we were going to the inauguration. His eyes lit up and he smiled. “Please say hello to President Obama for me,” he said.
By Sunday night, we were in Chicago, waiting for a connecting flight to DC. I picked up a coffee. The young woman behind the counter looked worn out (it was near midnight). She asked where I was headed. When I told her, she beamed. “I was there when he gave his acceptance speech in Chicago – it was the most amazing night of my life – I will never forget it,” she proudly told me. I had watched those momentous remarks over the internet with my family, my wife and I had tears running down our faces and our three children were mesmerized by the moment.
We managed to find a hotel room by DuPont Circle. We walked to the Metro this morning, rode the train to Union Station and headed to the Capitol Mall to pick up our Golden Tickets from Senator Feinstein’s office, Room 331 in the Hart Senate Building. The streets are packed with people wearing Obama Gear of various sorts all taking in the scene and sharing the experience with one and other. As we walked along, we noticed that many families were there with several generations of family members, from grandparents with walkers and canes to grandchildren in strollers and backpacks. And people are noticeably happy and hopeful, waiting for tomorrow’s great day.
The lines to get tickets are around the block in all directions, but nobody minds because we know what we are waiting for. We are all strangers and yet we have so much in common that conversation is easy; our hearts are full and our eyes are gleaming with anticipation and hope. When I open the envelope and look at the tickets, tears again come to my eyes – I can’t help it. I am so proud of our country – it feels like all things are possible.
Although most of the people here are focused on moving forward, in DuPont Circle we find a collection of groups more focused on Bush Bashing. There is a 30 foot inflatable effigy of W bearing the sign “Give Bush the Boot” surrounded by piles of shoes. The barker is organizing passing citizens to hurl “boots” at the blow up doll. It gave me a smile but I decided not to throw a shoe – time to move on. Around the corner, there is a giant canvas sheet propped in the air bearing the first words of the US Constitution – people are signing it with sharpies – it begins, of course, with “We the People”, which is just how it feels here in Washington today.
Tomorrow morning, while holding his hand on the same bible on which President Lincoln placed his hand in 1861, Barack Obama will speak the same words as the 43 Presidents before him as he takes the oath of office to serve as the President of the United States of America. Of course, today is a special day too because on it we recognize the birth of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. So today we remember his Dream and tomorrow, in the same place, we the people swear in as our 44th President the embodiment of that Dream.