Tulsans attending inauguration thrilled, inspired by events
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
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From the president's speech to the first lady's new haircut, 76-year-old Vashti Butler thought Monday's inauguration of President Barack Obama was all wonderful.
"It was awesome," Butler said by cell phone shortly after the swearing-in ceremony. "Everything was just beautiful, and his speech was right on."
Butler traveled 24 hours by bus this weekend to see the event.
Her daughter, Carla Kirk, also went.
"I would say it was the experience of a lifetime," Kirk said.
She said she was thrilled by being part of Monday's huge crowd and the experience of being close to history.
By car, bus and airplane, local supporters of Obama flocked to Washington to be part of Monday's event.
Their report: It was cold. It was crowded. And it was wonderful.
Tulsa County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Michael Whelan said he was about 50 yards from the Capitol steps during the ceremony. When he turned around, he could see a sea of people stretching to the Lincoln Memorial.
"It was just awe-inspiring," Whelan said.
"The people just looked like America. It was a wide, diverse spread of people."
The tag line of the president's speech, which echoed the Constitution's opening "We, the people" line, was inspiring rhetoric, Whelan said.
"I think it was a tremendous speech," he said. "It was really neat to see him articulate the issues that we're moving forward on."
After the speech, Whelan returned to a friend's home before putting on his tuxedo to head for the official inaugural ball.
"It's been an incredible weekend," he said.
Tulsan Kevin Elmore said his strongest impression also was of the crowd, which was huge and optimistic.
"The energy level was very high, and there was a lot of optimism," Elmore said. "I think they believed that we're headed in the right direction, and with a little help from Congress, we're going to get exactly where we want to be. You could see that in the people's behavior and mannerisms.
"It was really a reflection of what America's all about."
Four years ago, Elmore watched Obama's first inauguration on television, and he regretted not being there.
"I regretted so much not going the first time that I wanted to make it a point to go this time," he said. "It's a big part of history, and it just made sense."
For cadets in the Union High School Air Force Junior ROTC, participation in the Presidential Inaugural Parade made for a long day.
The school's 80 cadets were up at 6 a.m. getting ready. They heard part of the morning's ceremony on a bus radio as they were working their way through the lengthy security process, said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Snow, instructor for the unit.
By 5 p.m. Washington time, they still hadn't started marching the 1.5-mile parade route, Snow said.
"They're very excited, but they're also a little frustrated," Snow said. "This isn't like a football game. You don't just show up and warm up and get going. It's all contingent on powers way, way above our pay grade. There's a lot of hurry up and wait."
In the crowd at the swearing-in ceremony, Tulsan Richard Baxter said an anti-abortion protester climbed a tree near where he was standing and heckled the speakers.
"He was just ranting and raving," Baxter said. "He was really a rain cloud over the entire program."
But, Baxter said, the others in the crowd weren't willing to allow the actions of the one man to ruin the day.
"I had a beautiful experience," he said. "I had a great time. The people around me made it special."
Baxter said he brought snacks and shared them with others in the crowd and walked away with new friends.
He also walked away with the memory of one of the comments from Obama's speech: "We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall."
That comment put the moment in a special historical perspective, Baxter said.
"It not just about his presidency. It's about our future, our children and the people to come," he said.
Darren Williams said he was touched when the president talked about the need for national unity and when he talked about the need to help the poor.
"It was emotional. It was," Williams said.
Perhaps the most beautiful sight was the huge and diverse crowd gathered on the National Mall, he said.
A man from Africa and his daughter were standing behind Williams. To both sides, he said, he saw Asian couples. Nearby, a group of Hispanics was holding a banner that said "Georgia for Obama" in Spanish.
"The people are just everywhere," Williams said. "What a beautiful sight."
Ina Mitchell, 61, said the day was overwhelming.
"It was unbelievable," she said.
She is bringing a big supply of souvenirs back to Tulsa to help her remember the day. Among them are a commemorative edition of The Washington Post and some scarves, magnets and T-shirts.
Mitchell said she can remember a time when the thought of an African-American president was out of the question.
It was important for her to bring her 10-year-old granddaughter, Hailey Knauls, to see the historic moment, she said.
"I wanted her to be here," Mitchell said. "I wanted her to be exposed to how life is started on the political end."
Hailey said she shouted when she first saw Obama walk out of the U.S. Capitol.
"I will never forget this moment," she said.
Original Print Headline: Tulsans at swearing-in thrilled and inspired
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
President Barack Obama’s family watches during the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington on Monday. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / Associated Press