I used to get assigned to cover inaugurations during my decades as a reporter and I always dreaded them for a couple of reasons. First, everyone was writing the same story, so how interesting could that be? Second, influential people were everywhere and eager to peddle their personas to media. Third, Too many people. Just too many people.
I was surprised I became so emotional as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths in the sunshine up there from the Marine Band and down beneath those spectacular big trumpets that blared everyone onto the stage. The audience seemed to be about what you would find at a high school football game on a Friday night. Everyone wore masks, so the only way to tell if they were happy was to read their eyes.
You could hear the military commands as various characters paraded down the hall that lead to the platform. “Present…ARMS!” And so on. That was somehow very consoling. The military was there all over the periphery. None of them went bonkers and attacked the president elect or Ms. Harris.
The entertainers were perfect. Gaga, Brooks, Jaylo! We have a spectacular young poet laureate, as we should. And nobody blasted into their own interpretations of anything, so the music sounded just the way it was supposed to. To have that much talent presenting it added a little layer of suspense. Was anyone going to go off script? “This land is your land” is, of course, the perfect American song, even when you don’t use Woody Guthrie’s controversial verse about no trespassing signs and how there’s nothing written on the back of them so just climb over the fence because, after all, it’s your land. Plenty of room to launch into something wild there. But no one did.
They were most certainly happy, you could see that in the eyes above the masks. And so was I. I had a sense that a normalcy with which I could identify had returned to America. It might have been seeing all those old presidents milling about before the new one arrived. It might have been the sense that ceremony accounts for a lot in our historical memories.
It might also have been the way everyone seemed to pay some tribute to the ceremony of the event. It is clear, I must state, that Barack Obama remains our coolest ex president and his wife remains drop dead beautiful. Good to see.
And behind this all was the thought that somewhere in Florida, Donald Trump was taking his final ride on Air Force One, now flying under a different ID because, after all, he is no longer president.
Perhaps the happiest thought of them all.
Start being good to one another and see what can happen. I intend to.
I didn’t not have flashbacks to images of angry white people crashing into the capitol. In fact, I saw the capitol as Abraham Lincoln intended it when he pushed through the price tags and emotion of the Civil War to make certain it was completed. It is a symbol of the nation’s persistence. It’s strength. Yes, even its dependability. A beacon for everyone.