OUTSIDE BALTIMORE, 4:00 a.m. — About five hours ago I left New Haven on one of the Af-Am house’s buses with approximately 70-80 other Yalies. Now, we’re stopped to refuel at a Maryland rest stop just north of Baltimore, along with almost a dozen other tour buses.
All of the rest stop’s shops — Starbucks, Cinnabon, Sbarro and the like — are still open and serving long lines of customers, weary looking travelers with little obvious in common except for the Obama clothing worn by all.
Just as quickly as the crowds materialized, suddenly they were gone again, continuing on towards D.C. ”I feel like we’re going to Mecca,” remarked one of my traveling companions.
WASHINGTON, 12:35 a.m. — I feel like I’m on a pilgrimage.
The notion started when Adam (another YDNer) and I were heading down Saturday morning on the train. As Adam shared with me what he would tell the new President, given five seconds, we passed Obama’s whistle-stop train. Everyone rushed to one side (not ours, sadly) of our train to see Obama going through Wilmington. Our target was clear, and enthusiasm rose high.
From that point on we were joined in our pilgrimage by crowds of people standing on the side of the railroad tracks. The biggest collected at the train stations and towns, but also families and single people just standing out in the middle of the woods or cornfields, parking lots and highschools. They waited expectantly, American flags in hand, for what would only be a glance of a man whom we all know. (more…)
NEW HAVEN, 10:00 p.m. — Elizabeth Alexander ’84, Obama’s inaugural poet, is an expert on poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks, whose career spanned from the 1940s until her death in 2000, was the lionized black poetess of South Side Chicago. In 2005, Alexander edited The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, an anthology of Brooks’ most pivotal work, and said about Brooks: “She wrote truly great poems whose technical achievements are still guiding many poets. … She wrote poems about people she loved who lived in a place she loved and knew.”
Now, Alexander has returned to Brooks to find inspiration for Tuesday’s inaugural poem. When she spoke to the News on Sunday, Alexander said her poem will channel Brooks’ “understanding of what it means to speak to a community.” Alexander said three Brooks poems have influenced her in particular:
The Second Sermon on the Warpland
For Walter Bradford
This is the urgency: Live!
and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.
WASHINGTON, 9:30 p.m. — With under 12 hours to go until the gate of the Capitol ground open to visitors for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, the city is getting crowded. Metro trains around the city are nearly full, leading many to wonder how the system will hold up tomorrow.
As one can imagine security around the district is tight. Metro stations, like everything else in the city, are subject to close if the crowds get too large, or for security reasons. If you are traveling to DC tomorrow be prepared to alter your travel plans.
For those lucky enough to have tickets to the inauguration, you may only enter through the gate printed on the ticket. And don’t forget to check the list of banned items.
WASHINGTON, 5:45 p.m. — Connecticut’s congressional delegation hosted a welcome event for visitors to the Capitol in the ornate Caucus room of the Russell Senate Office Building. In attendance was the entire delegation and leaders from throughout the state, including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
WASHINGTON, 4:41 p.m. — The atmosphere here on Capitol Hill, and indeed in this entire city, is electric. People are cheering on street corners. People are excited to be here.
The Connecticut congressional delegation is opening its doors to their constituents. Sen. Chris Dodd hosted an “open house” at his office passing out fresh cookies baked by his staff. He and freshman Rep. Jim Himes welcomed Trumbull High School’s Golden Eagle Marching Band, which is performing in the parade tomorrow.
Tina Mazon of the Farmington Democratic Town Committee said she can’t wait for President-elect Obama to take the oath of office. “The world will change,” she said.
NEW HAVEN, 4:14 p.m. — Economizing has never been so important. As the esteemed YDN news editor Zack Abrahamson told me, “Prepare for this as if you’re going into a war zone.” With a predicted high of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and no backpacks allowed in many areas of the city, I will have to find a way to carry all of my essentials on my person. I’ll be wearing about four layers. I will be away from campus for just under 36 hours. Yet somehow, I will observe, report, and write a story with just a notepad and a low-tech cell phone. (My parents laughed when I asked for an iPhone for Christmas.) I’m both nervous and excited to see what obstacles I will encounter.
In the next few hours, as George W. Bush ’68 spends his last evening in the White House, I will eat a final dining hall meal (my swipes for tomorrow have been used to buy food for the AASA bus), attend a cappella rehearsal and make the trek across campus to the bus as I head into what promises to be an interesting day and a half.
WASHINGTON, 12:52 p.m. — At the Capitol, hundreds are lining up outside of congressional office buildings to pick up tickets to tomorrow’s inauguration. According to a Capitol police officer who declined to be named, the process appears to be going smoothly. More on the atmosphere here soon.
WASHINGTON, 1:00 a.m. — Tom Hanks’ invocation of Lincoln, Tiger Woods’ tribute to the military and Forest Whitaker’s appraisal of the American artist all drew polite applause in comparison to the wild cheers that met Jamie Foxx’s impression of President-elect Obama’s victory speech. Yet, this paled in comparison to the wild jubilation given to Obama himself.
Yesterday afternoon, 37 renowned celebrities, 12,000 portable restrooms, and an estimated 400,000 Americans from all over the country attended “We Are One,” the official opening ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.
The two-hour event, held at the Lincoln Memorial at the National Mall here in Washington, was broadcast live by HBO and included performers such as Bruce Springsteen, U2 and the Black Eyed Peas. President-elect Obama, Vice-President-elect Joe Biden and their respective families were also in attendance, creating a cornucopia of stardom that drove the crowd into a frenzy and made the Washington cold a little more bearable.
NEW HAVEN, 11:50 p.m. — With all of the excitement and patriotism surrounding the inauguration events in the U.S., it’s easy to forget about the rest of the world. But, in fact, the events leading up to and concluding in the inauguration of America’s first black president have a significant impact not only on Americans, but on everyone else too.
This is particularly true for Kenyans, given Obama’s heritage. After spending three weeks in Kenya over winter break, I can say firsthand that Kenya is extremely proud and excited about Obama’s victory. T-shirts, kangas (pieces of printed cloth used as skirts), and countless other trinkets with Obama’s face on them are everywhere.If the souvenirs aren’t enough, the creation of a government holiday on November 6, two days after Obama won, definitely expresses Kenya’s enthusiasm for Obama. (more…)