[Editor's note: This article was submitted by Elena Ault, a fifth-grader at Mill Hill School.]
My journey to the presidential inauguration started with the shooting in Newtown, Conn. Newtown is about 20 minutes away from my school. My school was in lockdown and there were police officers. It was my first lockdown at school. It was a very scary time.
When I got home, I discussed the lockdown and the shooting with my mother. We decided that the answer was not to live in fear, but to help prevent things like this from happening again. To be part of the solution you have to understand the process; how things are done and what is being done about the problem right now. This is how my trip to the inauguration came to be. I came to hear what President Obama believed to be the major concerns of this country and how he planned to address them in his next term. However, I came away with much more.
One thing that did not hit me until I arrived in Washington D.C. was how much care, effort and planning must have gone into putting the inauguration together. An estimated 600,000-800,000 people were in attendance. The streets were closed and thousands of police officers were in sight. I can’t imagine the number of hours that went into planning the security, the traffic control, the decorations, the set-up and clean-up. Everything ran so smoothly, at least to the public eye!
It was amazing to witness how many people traveled to see Obama take his oath to office. People believed in him enough to travel across the country to show that they support him. They were there to show their faith in him and that they believed in his message.
While there, we stood next to a couple that had traveled from Hawaii to watch the 57th inauguration. Another man had become a U.S. citizen just in time to vote in this election. He traveled from New York to be a part of this historic event. I could see the pride in his face. Another young man talked about how he did not vote for Obama but felt it was important to respect the outcome of the election and to show the world that America is united. People from all around the United States find inspiration in the inaugural ceremonies.
I could feel this year’s inauguration theme, “Faith in America’s Future” come alive. The fact that we woke up at 3:30 a.m., were standing in freezing temperatures and shivering in the cold for hours alongside more than half a million people was soon forgotten. As soon as the President began to speak, it all disappeared: the cold, the people, and the bags beneath my eyes…it was suddenly just the President and I. Everyone was hanging onto his every word. You could feel the excitement and the energy.
After Vice President Biden took his oath, it was President Obama’s turn to take his oath which was administered by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts. President Obama stepped up to the podium, cleared his throat and agreed to do his job to the best of his abilities and to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. He then began his inaugural address.
President Obama’s message was that he strongly believed he could make this country and its children safer and our economy stronger, but he needed our support to make those changes. He stressed how the United States was a unit and we should embrace that. He called on all Americans to think not only of their individual challenges but the challenges that other citizens face. The solutions lie in our collective effort. He also explained that as time goes by, our challenges and hardships change and thus our solutions must adapt to those changes.
President Obama also stressed many times that we should all be treated equally under the law. He spoke of our country’s never-ending journey to make life, liberty and pursuit of happiness a reality to everyone regardless of their gender, age, or religion.
After his inaugural address, we heard James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson sing followed by Beyoncé singing the national anthem. After the inauguration, President Obama headed to the inauguration luncheon at the Capitol. After the luncheon, the First Family and the Bidens would then begin the inaugural parade to the White House. Later in the evening, they would attend the inaugural balls.
To me, the inauguration was more than who was singing the national anthem, the parade or the fancy inaugural balls. It was about the hope for change. It was about people having faith in America’s future. People will always disagree on how to address the important issues facing our country. But, today was a day for the country to come together.
What I came away with was that as a country, we do have the power to make change. To make a change, you need passion, hope, compromise and support. That was what the day was all about to me.
- Elena Ault