I’ve just returned from a momentous and exciting trip to Washington D.C. for the Presidential Inauguration and am still totally blown away by what I experienced and saw there. You likely already know how insanely cold and crowded it was, but what you may not have fully realized was how many families – spanning several generations – trekked across the country and onto the cold concrete to watch history be made. I will eventually thaw and will one day pack away all of the commemorative items I collected there, but I will never forget the people I encountered who ultimately had the biggest role in shaping my memories of that trip.
Truly impressive to me were the thousands of older citizens who braved the harshest conditions to “witness this first-hand”, as one woman told me. Sheila was a 73-year old Alabama native who had never been to D.C. before this historic day. She had saved money for over a year (long before Obama had won) because she said she would never believe it if she didn’t see it with her own eyes. There were countless others like Sheila who silently reminded me that this event was of greater significance than I may ever have fully comprehend.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, and equally impressive, were the families – with young kids in tow – who were there to experience history. These, our littlest citizens, couldn’t possibly fully understand what it was they were witnessing, but they bundled up and bunkered down in the cold, trusting that their parents were on to something. They knew it was important for them to be there and I’m proud to report that I didn’t witness a single tantrum or fit thrown…which is a huge triumph given that it was 6 degrees, and there wasn’t an inch of room to run or play. I know that it cannot have been easy for those parents to manage their children under those conditions – so I applaud them for having the forethought and fortitude to give their children the opportunity to have that memory. Many other parents and teachers found other ways to discuss the inaugural events with their children and students, respectively, so that it could become a moment that they would remember and respect.
Back at my home base in New York City, my daughter watched the Inauguration with her preschool class. Her class was one of thousands across the country that put their academic studies on hold for a moment to focus on what is perhaps the most important moment in civil studies they may ever witness. She was sad to not be with me but told me she was proud to know that I was somewhere in the middle of all those people (which she thought looked “fun!”). I’d never heard her use the word “proud” before and so having her bestow the term on me has really underscored how amazing this experience was and the important role that we parents play as role models and ambassadors for them.