NORTHAMPTON, Mass. —Four years ago, Laura Marks ‘96 was one of the estimated 4,000 ticket holders who couldn’t get into the reserved areas of the Capitol grounds because security personnel were forced to close the gates due to overcrowding.
In fact, the 57th Presidential Inauguration will be the third one Marks will attempt to attend. After being waylaid the first time by an emergency wisdom tooth removal and the second time by the crowd, she is hopeful “the third time’s the charm.”
On January 21, Marks will be among several Smith alumnae and students who head to the National Mall to see President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sworn in to office for a second term. The theme of this Presidential Inauguration is “Faith in America’s Future,” and Marks’ faith takes the form of five tickets.
“This time around, we have tickets for us, my mother, who’s flying in from Nebraska, and our two kids,” she said.
In 2009, an estimated 1.8 million people descended on the National Mall for the inauguration, setting a record attendance for any event held in Washington, and millions more across the world watched the events on television and online, placing Obama’s first inauguration among the most-observed events ever by a global audience.
This inauguration may not seem as monumental as the moment Barack Obama became the first African-American to take the presidential oath, but for government major Hannah Giltner ‘15, this is a first.
“I was invited by a congressman whose campaign I worked on this summer,” said Giltner. “I’ve been working on campaigns since 2005 and have fallen in love with local politics. I can’t wait.”
Fiona Druge ‘14 attended the inauguration four years ago as a senior in high school. She described it as a moment of the greatest emotional unity she’d ever seen. “Everyone was so hopeful and excited—they believed they were getting a glimpse into their future, at what politics in Washington could look like,” she said.
Although she never got a glimpse of the president—Druge was standing about a mile away—she was happy to share the moment with her father and the millions of others.
She said there wasn’t much sharing of stories going on in the moment. “I think a lot of people’s experiences, emotions, reasons for being there were quite personal. For a lot of people, it wasn’t just about Obama, it was about ‘Not Bush.’ I think with this election there’s still that sense of ‘better than the alternative.’”
This year she’ll be going with her sister who is now a senior in high school, and who didn’t get to go last time, and is looking forward to the event.
Alessandra Sandin ‘07 had a front row seat to the 2009 inauguration, a suite on Constitution Avenue. She described the district on Inauguration Day as a scene of “mass hysteria”—of thousands of people pressing in from every direction.
She happily recounts the close proximity she was from the first family. “President Obama and Michelle stepped out of the car literally right in front of us—it was pretty cool. They were so tall!”
A resident of the district, Sandin said she probably would not make the trip into the city if she did not live there. But, because it’s so convenient, “Why not?”
“Besides, I think it’s one of those monumental occasions that are important to attend. A lot has happened for me personally in the last four years, and a lot has changed in our country in four years, so there’s something powerful about going to this inauguration. It is such an American thing to do, and even though I didn’t vote for Obama in this election or the last, he’s my president, and it is good to be a part of that.”
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