Obama presidency won’t be perfect, but 1-20-09 was

Ex-Reporter Newspapers writer was at inauguration


It is a hypothetical question designed to have no correct answer: What is your perfect day?

Whether I was posed that question growing up in Redmond or writing for the hometown Reporter, a great answer has always eluded me. But allow me to take a stab at it.

It would start with an obnoxious alarm clock beeping at 2:30 a.m., announcing it was time to put on two shirts, two sweaters, a wool coat, fleece gloves and a commemorative beanie.

Next would come a modified triathlon. The first leg was a brisk 1.5-mile walk in sub-20 degree temperatures, followed by a two-hour standing contest on a cramped sidewalk, concluding with a quarter-mile run dodging a swarm of people, all under a sunless sky.

The prize was the right to put down a 4-foot-by-6-foot blanket on frozen grass that would confine five people for seven more hours.

All in all, the day would include more than 10 hours of near-misery for an event that lasted just 60 minutes. And it would be 100 percent, absolutely, without question, completely worth it.

No matter your political views, no matter what happens from here on out, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 was nothing less than an historic day.

Above is how I spent mine. Approximately 2 million others decided on something similar, because life doesn’t have too many days that are to be remembered forever. For the baby boomers, that includes the JFK assassination and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Younger generations have the day the white Ford Bronco became a classic, and the far more fateful and somber morning of 9-11, 2001.

Now we all can add one that evokes a much more positive reaction to that list: The day Barack Obama, and everything that entails, became the 44th president of the United States of America.

Anyone who was there – whether a local, someone who traveled thousands of miles, or a former writer for Reporter Newspapers who moved to Washington, D.C. just six months ago – will be able to tell their grandchildren they bared witness to it all with 2 million of their closest friends.

The day had its downsides. Limbs were freezing. Police and security seemed overwhelmed. And even the president and the chief justice of the Supreme Court struggled with their oath. But in some ways it echoed the country as a whole. We are at war. People are losing their jobs. And the economy has hit a level nobody thought was possible.

Yet for one day, that all became secondary. And the moment when Obama was pronounced president for the first time, and a horde of flags flew into the air, there was a feeling of optimism and unity that had been missing from a lot of lives for far too long. It was a snapshot to remember, seeing total strangers of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities hug one another without a care in the world.

No, the day wasn’t entirely perfect. And the next four years won’t be, either.

But my memory of that moment always will be.

Christopher A. Smith is a former Reporter Newspapers staff writer. He now lives in Washington D.C.