WASHINGTON — I almost wish I hadn’t stayed for Beyoncé — almost.
While not quite as congested as the 2009 inauguration that brought nearly two million people to the National Mall, the 2013 inauguration and its 800,000 attendants was still a sight to see. To put it simply, in about a seven-hour span I was able to experience the best and worst of the United States.
Bless the crowd.
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted the words of writer Alex Haley before President Barack Obama took the oath: “Find the good and praise it.” So I will.
Standing within the peaceful mob can be described as nearly euphoric. Where else in the world can you find almost one million citizens willingly watching a leader transfer power to himself? Over the past couple of years, the news has been filled with riots of angry people across the globe wanting their leaders taken down — not here.
How many other countries take a day to forget about the problems in politics and celebrate its values? Not many. Though this day is for Obama, he reminded me that it’s really about America, about “We, the people” — which he used to begin many sections of his speech. And seeing “the people” right in front of me made his words come to life. It was powerful and while hundreds of thousands waved red, white and blue flags, I felt proud to be an American. The camaraderie surrounding the event made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But in the same breath: Curse the crowd.
Trying to leave the Mall after Beyoncé’s rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” was a nightmare, but still I have no regrets about staying. The magic that had filled the air throughout the ceremony disappeared faster than the Russian spies who were probably there. Well, maybe not quite as fast.
For some reason, security blocked off nearly every viable pathway to all but one of the closest subway stops. Combine that with the hundreds of thousands of people who had no idea where they were going — tourists, I guess — and you’ve got yourself a disaster.
Everywhere I turned, I encountered an officer who said we had to turn around and go somewhere else. I asked one officer for directions but he dismissed me with a “Have a nice day; keep going” and kept eating his snack. It felt like a video game. Just mere minutes after being inspired by our president’s message on how the future of United States is about us, I had lost a little faith in us. Or at least our logistical abilities.
Regardless of the frustration in my departure, inauguration weekend in Washington D.C. allowed me, and the crowd, to do what most others around the country could not do: experience democracy.
From visiting memorials and meeting my congressman to the inauguration ceremony itself, I was able to see that the leaders we’ve elected do exist — it’s not all a dream, even though sometimes I wish it were.
While my feelings toward the crowd were the strongest love-hate relationship I’ve experienced, it made the whole event special. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who supports Obama and the country as a whole. It felt like a microcosm of America with people of all different races, creeds and backgrounds filling up the mall.
I renewed my patriotism in America this weekend. And my love for Beyoncé. Bless her.
Derek Wolfe is an LSA freshman.