UC Davis Health System employees share their inauguration experiences
Among the nearly 2 million people who attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama last week were several employees of UC Davis Health System. Five of those employees agreed to share their thoughts, reflections and perspectives on their experience. Their accounts, in their own words, follow:
Clinical professor of medicine
Jan. 17: Today we flew from Sacramento, via Denver, to Washington D.C. Flying from Denver to Reagan International, you could feel a sense of energy on the plane. It was subtle, but present. I was blessed to have the privilege of sitting next to an African foreign exchange student studying in Arizona. My new friend, who could hardly afford it, was flying to the Capital to experience the inauguration. When asked why, he provided a relatively simple answer. He replied, "Because this is important. To everyone. In the world."
I understand what he meant. In my travels to Turkey, Egypt, India and Nicaragua over the past several years, it has been clear that the world view of the "American Dream" has shifted. The promise that "America" offered the world had changed. And not in a good way. Yet, there was something about what this man, with the awkward sounding name, who was elected president of the United States, offered that touched us. All of us. Here and abroad. Yet, most did not believe this presidency was possible. No. The country that America was now perceived to be would not allow this to happen. But lo and behold, it occurred. And with it, so did the "dream" revive. I understand what my new friend from Ghana meant. "This is important. To everyone. In the world."
Jan. 18: This morning we walked the city looking at monuments, new and old. What struck me was the sense of pride in the many African-American guests that we met. The importance of this election to people of all races and gender was present. However, for people of color, and for the young, theirs was a visible sense of glee. While this may not be the most accurate word, it captures the sense of joy, pride, admiration and optimism that I felt.
In the afternoon we attended the concert on the mall. This event had the feeling of a pilgrimage, a sense of shared experience. There was a shared camaraderie between young and old, people of all walks of life, income brackets and political perspectives. What struck me most was the civility that 750,000 people sharing an experience that was largely unscripted and unsupervised. The papers reported zero security incidents for what is believed to be the largest concert on the mall ever.
In the evening we shared time with fellow Californians at the California Ball, which was at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. While it was not the same experience as sharing time with the masses, it was a great celebration with many fellow Californians and other Sacramento residents.
Jan. 19: A day spent with others at the Canon House Office Building waiting to pick up our inauguration tickets. With the assistance of Susan DeMarois, we were able to obtain tickets from Congressman Wally Herger. While in line we chatted with people from all over the United States. While I have mentioned it before, the sense of pride shared by older African Americans was something that was special. I did not live through the experience that they may have, nor did I live through segregation or the civil rights movement. However, in their smiles, I could share in their pride. This was special.
Director, CAARE Diagnostic and Treatment Center and California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center
Everyone that we meet is positively buoyant, happy and friendly. People just start conversations and introduce themselves to one another on the monument grounds, in the metro and at adjacent tables in restaurants. It is an amazing experience to be among a million people singing, together with Garth Brooks, "Bye, Bye Miss American Pie," other pop songs that we all know, and the national anthems. An estimated 2 million people were at the inauguration. Everyone was respectful, careful with one another in such large moving groups, joyful, and fun to talk with! Signs everywhere in restaurant windows are about celebrating change and moving forward.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the Adams Morgan area of northwest Washington.
So many interesting people — the sound design engineer for the inauguration, congressional staffer, pastor, literary agent, parents with young children. We would come back at the end of each very cold and exhausting day and tell our stories; and watch CNN to get full coverage of what occurred that day.
The "call to action" from President Obama is strong and compelling. There is something about President Barack and Michelle Obama that makes you want to do more, and to figure out what that can be for our community. What are the various possibilities for us? Augment the Channel 10 Coats for Kids Drive that got 40,000 coats donated? Work with Habitat for Humanity? Figure out how to raise money for Afghanistan to build infrastructure to resist the Taliban? Provide needed food, clothing and household supplies for needy CAARE Center families — if we each donated $1 per month — that's $100 from the CAARE Center. Reduce driving and consumption of gas? Pay down our credit card debt even more aggressively? How can we coordinate with other individuals and organizations who have similar interests? What steps and organizing can we undertake to strengthen our community?
Executive communications specialist
In the "Purple Ticket" section at the Inauguration, I had a distant but discernible view of the red-draped stage where Barack Obama would give his opening words as the first African-American President of the United States. I only had to shift every five or 10 minutes to see around a wide-brimmed-hat or a tree limb — a relatively minor inconvenience.
As the morning progressed through the invocation and a musical performance, I often defaulted to viewing the spectacle in more detail via one of the two Jumbotrons that flanked the west side of the Capitol.
As a speechwriter by training and profession, I had thought -- in the days leading up to the event — that the words spoken by our newly sworn-in president would be the highlight of my experience at the Inauguration ceremony — but that turned out not to be the case.
Instead, I felt chills every time the massive screen flashed an aerial shot of the waves of millions of Americans who had gathered along the National Mall.
I didn't want to miss a moment of the program, but I was compelled to turn my back to the podium from time to time simply to verify with my own eyes that all of those people were really there — to verify that, in fact, there were millions of people who simply wanted to take part in this brief moment together.
The sight was beautifully overwhelming and I felt extremely lucky to be among so many of my fellow Americans, including our new president, as the world watched history.
M. Denise Person
Nurse manager, University Birthing Suites/Women's Pavilion/Newborn Nursery
From the moment I arrived at Sacramento International Airport, the excitement was palpable! That excitement and enthusiasm continued to build each day. Throughout the inaugural activities, I saw and met people from all over the world — men, women and children of every age, race, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic group. So much diversity, and still our similarities outweigh our differences! It was a truly amazing experience. We were there for a common purpose; to witness history in-the-making. I witnessed hope being restored to America and to the world. Now, every individual is responsible for keeping this spirit alive — this event served as a call to community service. Yes, we can!
Executive assistant, Facilities Design and Construction
Wow, how do you describe history before your eyes? It's hard to imagine, but fortunately for me, from Jan. 18 through 20 I got the opportunity to live and breathe and dwell in history that will forever be remembered.
Right from the start after arriving in D.C., you knew that something special was going to happen and the anticipation and excitement felt by everybody was electrifying. Never in my life have I been in a place with such a kaleidoscope of cultures, heritage and a variety of people who all shared the same pride and aura of good spirit.
1.8 million people in one place is no small feat. Everywhere I went, whether it was to the Metro, to get something to eat or even to the bathroom, was a long line and at least a 20-to-30-minute wait. But in those lines you saw no long faces or grumpy attitudes, all you saw were smiles and happiness to just be there. 1.8 million and not one single arrest. Imagine that!
On January 20, I awoke at 4 a.m. to try and get the best view possible to witness history. My friends and I braved the 20-degree temperature (not including wind chill) and the crowded Metro and the even more congested purple gate to enter the ceremony.
The excitement was through the roof and the anticipation was so high that we didn't care that we'd been standing for hours and we were colder than we've ever been.
As Barack Obama prepared to take his oath of office, all these emotions came through and the experience became surreal. I was not born when Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream Speech," I could only read about it, or when JFK gave his inaugural address of 1961. I was not able to join in on the celebration of the prison release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 or a lot of other proud moments of history.
However, here I stood witnessing with my own eyes and hearing with my own ears the first African-American president sworn into the most prestigious position of these United States. Wow! The dreams of so many of my ancestors finally coming true in my lifetime, the feeling is overwhelming. With the hard work, determination and hope of so many people the struggles and dreams of the past were validated as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.
By 12:30 p.m. I had stood on my feet for seven straight hours, my voice was gone, I had a raspy cough, I couldn't feel my toes or my fingertips and I hadn't eaten a thing all day. But I felt marvelous and I wouldn't trade it for anything and I couldn't stop smiling.