CP in D.C.: A diary from the Obama inauguration

Emily Kaiser heads to D.C. to experience firsthand one of the most historic events in recent memory

After President-elect Barack Obama's whistle-stop tour Saturday, official inauguration festivities kicked off Sunday afternoon with the "We Are One" concert at Lincoln Memorial.

The gates opened at 7 a.m., but there was word of people getting there by 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. to wait for the prime spots in front of the monument.

The concert was exactly what you'd expect: energizing, exciting, and pretty cheesy. There is really no way to describe watching old ladies rock out to "Shout" or young guys in baggy jeans get into a serious sing-along with Pete Seeger. Obama is bringing us together with our guilty pleasure of pop stars!

All of the performers (from Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen to Shakira and BeyoncŽ) performed American-themed songs and anthems that became instant sing-alongs. The crowd's favorites included "Shout," sung by Garth Brooks, and Pete Seeger's "This Land Is Your Land."

When the whole crowd started chanting "Obama" after his last speaking moment of the show, another group started chanting "Beyoncé." She hadn't played yet and people were upset. Why come to an inauguration concert if Beyoncé isn't there?

Monday can be explained in one word: waiting. Or maybe patience. These visitors have a lot of it.

Today was the day that all congressional offices invited their constituents into the offices to pick up their inauguration tickets. Anyone can normally come into the offices, but this was the first and only day for most to make it there during regular hours. It was organized chaos at its best.

Lines for the three House buildings snaked around every side and every entrance. While I didn't need a ticket, I wanted to experience life inside the House buildings when they were bursting with energy. They are normally a pretty sleepy place.

So I waited. And waited. For two hours. Worth it? Totally.

Minutes after I joined the line for the Longworth building to get to Rep. Keith Ellison's office, my eavesdropping personality paid off. Standing right behind me was a group of Minnesotans. Two people back, there were even more. Two hours can fly by (almost) when you have something to small-talk about.

Some came for the historic nature of the day. Some came because they truly felt an American spirit in the air. Others wanted to have their own voices heard.

When we reached Ellison's office, we found five Minnesotans who rented a van for quite the road trip. The guys, ages 24 to 27, packed up their van and made it to Washington, D.C., in 18 hours. Only two of them have tickets, but the rest came anyway.

The excitement of the pending inauguration didn't stop them from thinking about jumping back into the real world. Many of them have to go back to work on Thursday after a week of very little sleep and two 18-hour van rides. But for now, they are living in the moment.

There are some Minnesotans who don't get out much. So when they take a trip halfway across the country to see the nation's first black president get sworn in, they better have the weekend of a lifetime. For some, that involves wild Jacuzzi orgies.

A Minnesotan who received tickets to the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday was one of many who posted an Obama-related ad on Craigslist looking for some willing orgy participants. He even gave a shout-out to Sen. Amy Klobuchar—"I even got tickets from my congresswoman!"—how thoughtful! Perhaps his awesome abilities to win a lottery inauguration ticket will help him score in bed, too. Somehow, we doubt it.

Think back to the most ridiculously huge wedding you've attended. Hopefully it wasn't your own. Now think about the receiving line you had to stand in to give the bride and groom a hug and exchange small talk. Now replace the wedding party with politicians.

Monday in the congressional offices was like a mash-up of a wedding receiving line and a really popular kid's graduation party. Snacks, excitement, talk of the future...and a whole lot of politics.

Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Amy Klobuchar spent the day moving more than 1,000 visiting Minnesotans through their doors for snacks, refreshments, and self-guided tours of the cramped quarters.

While many senators only mentioned these open houses to constituents who were planning to pick up their inauguration tickets, Klobuchar decided it would be more fun and chaotic if all Minnesotans came to hang out. Her office was overflowing with excited Minnesotans who wanted a handshake and a Spam puff.

The crowd spilled out into the hallway, clogging the walkway for some of the Californians making their way to offices down the way. As the crowds pushed by and people tried to squish in for photos, the U.S. and Minnesota flags tipped and tumbled behind her. Her husband rushed by, Uggs in hand, for their daughter to take with to her sleepover.

"This is bigger than I thought," Klobuchar said. "We invited everyone in the state because we wanted everyone to be part of this event." She said she hopes the energy of the week travels back home with the visitors and that everyone "takes that energy and puts it into something positive in their communities." 

 
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