Just as it was four years ago, Inauguration Day was exhilarating, uplifting, and moving in ways difficult to describe. I haven’t yet found adjectives to capture what it’s like to stand amidst a crowd of a million cheering people, or to see virtually an entire government assemble outdoors in a public park to install a chief executive per the direction of its People, or to hear parents explaining to their children what the civic exercise they are watching means to their futures.

My colleague Phil’s guest post yesterday nicely covered the elements of the ceremonies as well as the officials and entertainers involved this year. Rather than restate that information, I’ll simply note a few of the highlights that I found particularly meaningful … starting with the oath of office and the President’s stirring Inaugural Address:

 

In 2009 I was struck by the large number of families who came to witness Barack Obama make history, as well as by the outpouring of happy tears (in some cases uncontrollable sobs) when he repeated the oath. Although we are now four years along, the scene on the National Mall was similar, with a large number of children, folks from the far corners of the country and around the world, a joyful atmosphere, and many moist eyes. And again I wouldn’t have traded the 5 hours in the cold winter weather for a comfortable chair in front of a TV.

Among the other highlights for me were the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s extraordinary rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic … the procession of Senators, House Members, Supreme Court Justices, and Cabinet Secretaries, displaying in one place our carefully calibrated balance of power among three independent branches of government … Myrlie Evers-Williams’ stirring and deeply symbolic invocation … the President taking his oath of office on the Bibles of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. …

President Obama acknowledges cheers after taking the oath.

… the President’s soaring statement that “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still;  just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall;  just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone;  to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth”

… the high spirits and conversations at the Balls and parties … and, yes, the guy who climbed to the top of a tree on the Capitol grounds, waved a sign, and shouted a single political belief repeatedly for five hours within easy eyesight and earshot of the senior officials on the dais, without being pulled down or otherwise silenced and carted away. There will always be cynics, arm-chair critics, and pickers of nits when it comes to freedom of speech, but the annoying guy in the tree unintentionally proved a point and indirectly made me proud.

Tree guy at the Capitol, ignoring a ranger.

The day was rich with color, symbolism, pageantry, and very personal vignettes. Spectators cheered, sang, embraced, and waved what looked to me to be hundreds of thousands of flags. Both the array of dignitaries on the dais and the crowd of other citizens on the Mall reflected the vast, organic diversity of the American People.

Below are a few more of my favorite images of the day, some of which were inartfully captured with my trusty iPhone:

As Dr. McWaine and I headed to our spot at the Capitol’s West Front.

The Nat’l Mall filling with spectators, as seen from the Capitol.

At the Capitol after the ceremony, as we lingered to talk with friends.

The President and First Lady dance at the Inaugural Ball.

As I said, it was a great day. I look forward to returning in four years to witness again the grand Constitutional exercise as power is transferred smoothly, peacefully, and publicly from our 44th President to our 45th. If you happen to be in the U.S. on January 20, 2017, or can plan a trip at that time, I would encourage you to attend as well.