KRISTENA ADAMO. Ten Things I Will Forever Remember About Obama's Inauguration (in no particular order)
1. The embarrassed smile Obama shared with his wife Michelle just as he was stepping onto the platform. "This," I thought, "is a man in whom I recognize myself, my family, and my friends. I would totally hang out with this guy." I had always thought it impossible to be both a politician and human. Obama seems to be an oxymoron in that sense--he is the first politician I actually want to hug.
2. Sitting on the floor of the Montgomery Ward Lounge at UIC and watching other people look around to see whether anybody was going to stand when we heard the command, "Please rise." Nobody did, but I liked that most of us were about to. The sense of giddiness, of anything-could-happen, made us all feel a lot younger, young with that sense of awe, of newness. We could not feel old and cynical, like we have been-here, done-this, seen-it-all. Later, we clapped and whooped, and that might have been better than rising out of awkward propriety.
3. That I was in love with a line from Obama's inauguration speech because I thought he said, "the vital thrust between a people and their government." I loved the imagery, sexual and in being so, speaking to an important internal/emotional connection; definitely aggressive, indicating a love-and-hate, push-and-pull. I liked that it was off-kilter and unexpected in a special, literary kind of way. But then Laura at work told me that he really said, "...because only then can we restore the vital TRUST between a people and their government." And man, that makes way more sense.
4. A kind, skinny man in worn denim and a turtleneck walked up to me just before Obama was sworn in and told me he was a reporter with either USE or UIC. Something like that. He had smiling blue eyes behind thin-rimmed glasses, wispy white hair that was shaggy in a youthful way, and he carried a beat-up pocket notebook. He asked if he could speak with me after the speech, and I agreed so quickly, without asking any questions, that he was a bit taken aback, maybe didn't even believe that I really would speak with him. He probably couldn't know that I do interviews, too, and that it's scary and awkward a lot of the time, and that I understand how wonderful it is to speak to somebody who will readily answer your questions and with gusto. Anyway, he scribbled my name down and I found him later, just after Elizabeth Alexander's slightly underwhelming reading. We talked for a couple minutes about what I thought of Obama's speech, and then he said, "You should write speeches yourself!" And I wanted to hug him because that's such a nice thing to say. I hope my eyes smiled back at his.
5. The excruciating joy.
6. Talking with my nine-year-old cousin Angela in the car later that day, I asked her if she watched the inauguration at school. She said yes, she had watched it but couldn't understand most of his speech. "I'm nine," she told me, all business. "I didn't even know what he was talking about, but I think he said he wanted to make a new America?" I told her yes, he did say we would remake America. Angela said (with a sly smile) "So... we're going to take every building down and build new ones?" I love that she can be so facetious and I hope she never stops. I also wonder if Obama's daughters make these kinds of jokes to him. I bet they do.
7. Michelle Obama's retro inaugural dress. She is like Jackie O but cheeky. As much as I want to be super serious about all the important work she'll be doing as a first lady (and she is going to be a kick-ass first lady, this I know), I also can't help but be excited to see how much she plays with traditional presidential fashion.
8. Seeing people see themselves on television. I wonder if anybody thought it was overwhelming to be able to see themselves televised nationally, literally encapsulated in the visual history of the inauguration. Children in a Forest Park elementary school, people celebrating in Hyde Park, students at DePaul University--they were all apart of a historic broadcast. Could they feel it? Or were they too caught up in the moment to reflect upon it like that? Maybe they thought of it later.
9. Obama's slight stumble during his presidential oath. It was endearing to see him get a bit flustered. My aunt told me afterward as she drove me to work that Chief Justice Roberts is really the one who stumbled, but it doesn't matter. I kind of wish swearing-in just required a high-five because that's probably what Barack Obama really wanted to do. That's what I would want to do. High-five, spin around, and low-five.
10. The song performed just before Obama's oath was absolutely perfect, and I thought it was funny that John Williams composed it (he is the guy who came up with the film scores for Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones). I remember wondering if Yo-Yo Ma's hands were cold, if he was friends with the people playing music with him, if Obama listens to Yo-Yo Ma, and, if not, does he at least remember the Seinfeld episode when Kramer couldn't stop saying "Yo-Yo Ma." I also wondered if Obama has a ring-tone other than "ring ring" or "beep beep." I wondered if he had a Yo-Yo Ma ring tone, and if those even exist.
...I guess I can be a little facetious, too, when important things are happening.
Today was enormous, unfathomable, beyond my scope at 23 years of age (having spent a little under a decade thinking of myself as a citizen of the United States of America). So, when I think about Obama's ring tone, or the jokes his daughters tell him, I'm making it real, dividing this once-impossible thing into tiny, understandable parts so that I can connect with this new reality of what is now possible.
At it's best, history is a human thing, and at their best, politicians are human. I am thankful for this new air, this simple gift.