Harvard Kennedy School Blog from the Inauguration

January 16, 2009
by Harvard Kennedy School Contributors

The inauguration of President Barack Obama was seen across the world by millions of people. More than 1 million people flooded Washington, D.C., filling the streets and mall to experience the event first-hand.

Among the crowds were hundreds of members of the Harvard Kennedy School family, some of whom have volunteered to contribute to this blog-style, continually updated article about their experience at the inauguration.

Monday, Jan 26, 2009
11.00 p.m.

Today was my first day of post-inauguration class. I had a paper due at 5pm. Instead of finishing it last night, I spent a few hours looking at inauguration photos and recaps online. Today, in the library, I found myself researching the infamous "Tunnel of Doom," where inauguration spectators were trapped during the ceremony last Tuesday, instead of figuring out my course shopping schedule.

In the halls, stories of balls and partying and the cold waits in line for the ceremony itself outweigh policy discussions and talks of coursework. People are still processing the history that's been made; it seems for many of us that the details of courses and research and PAE's are now just a bit mundane when compared to the events of last week.

Over time, I'm sure the Kennedy School will fall back into its groove. We'll slowly acclimate to the new faces in the White House, many of them our former professors. The awe of last week will fade. The stickers and buttons and posters will gradually be put away. But I'm gonna take a little more time and just lay in the memories of last week.

Classes can wait. This is history.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009
9.15 a.m.

I heard the warnings. The cattle-call feeling. The unmanageable coat check. The long lines for food and drink. The distant glimpses of a President off to yet another one.

The Inaugural Ball.

I bought tickets anyway, to the Southern Regional. I didn't get my hopes up, and when I got to the DC Armory around 8 p.m., I felt a bit pressed, lost in the crowd. But then I saw NBA star Alonzo Mourning, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn and heard whisperings of Emmit Smith being somewhere in the room. Things started looking up. Once ABC news started broadcasting, I did the obligatory stand-behind-the-newscaster-and-wave-thing. I even called my Mom and told her to look for me on Nightline.

This ball thing might not be so bad after all. A bit before midnight, I heard the Vice President and his wife announced. I rushed the stage and was caught up in the glamour of it all. A little later, the Obamas entered. They danced for half a song, and I couldn't stop trying to get a good shot, standing on my tippy-toes, enduring the elbows of spectators trying to get a better view.

I, the Inaugural Ball cynic, was caught up in the madness. And it was great.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009
9.15 a.m.

8:30 am Tuesday and the Mall is already full back to the Washington Monument.

The Capitol Building is a distant speck - but everyone on the Mall felt part of the moment and was happy to be there - even standing for six hours in the cold. I've never met a happier crowd of millions.

Crowds take over the roads as they fan out through D.C. after the inauguration.

- Molly Lanzarotta, Harvard Kennedy School senior communications officer

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2009
3.00 p.m.

It's official. Our nation's 44th President has been sworn in. The cold, the wait, the shameless ticket hustling - it was all worth it. I was there. I witnessed history. And I'm better for it.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009
1.00 p.m.

Barack Obama is now the president of the United States. Many members of the Harvard Kennedy School family met in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum to watch the Inauguration.

- Lindsay Hodges Anderson, Web Editor

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009
10.10 a.m.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009
8.35 a.m.

Crossing the Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, MPP1 class reps Ryan Androsoff, Dave Baumwoll, Matt Aronson. Our early morning walk has taken us past the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery so far. We all thought that the "No U-Turn" sign before we officially crossed the river to the Mall was quite appropriate!

Early gatherers at the Lincoln memorial.

Crowd gathered at the Washington Monument.

- Ryan Androsoff, MPP '10

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009
6.00 a.m.

It's 6 a.m. on Inauguration Day. I'm wearing four pairs of socks, a pair of long johns, basketball shorts, two pairs of jeans, an undershirt, two sweaters, two scarves, a Harvard sweatshirt, gloves, earmuffs and a heavy pea coat. I have a camera and an inauguration ticket in my pocket. It's 20 degrees outside and U2 is playing in the background.

So begins the pilgrimage.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Monday, Jan. 19, 2009 
7.45 p.m.

In a couple hours us HKS-ers who are down in DC will meet up for some night-before toasts to, and celebrations of, soon-to-be President Obama. I had some free time late this afternoon and decided to take a walk and explore the festivities down on the Mall. Though there are no formal events going on today, there are still hundreds of thousands of people roaming around who, like me, are just taking in the atmosphere.

Everywhere I went, preparations for the big day tomorrow are in full swing. Metal barricades are being put up. Brigades of tow trucks are removing stragglers. Helicopters are whirling. Pundits are pontificating. All in all, everything you would expect as a city prepares for the biggest political event in the world.

The advantage of everything being in set-up mode still is that I managed to get up fairly close to places that I have no hope of getting close to tomorrow. The Capitol building looks stunning with all of the staging and flood-lights in full deployment and I feel fortunate to have been able to get a look at it right up from the seating area. I was then inspired to walk the parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where reviewing stands were still being set-up as I walked by. My timing was quite fortuitous as I managed to get right up to the Presidential reviewing stand behind the White House literally 30 seconds before the Secret Service shut the whole area down.

Having now seen the places I won't get to see tomorrow, the biggest thing I am looking forward to while watching history unfold on the Mall is the energy of the crowd. I still remember what an amazing experience it was watching the election night results come in with my fellow Kennedy School students in Cambridge. And while that night was marked by the exuberance of victory, I suspect that tomorrow will have a different, but equally overwhelming, feeling to it - one of accomplishment, pride, and responsibility.

The Presidential reviewing stand for tomorrow's parade.

The Capitol building the night before.

The MSNBC stand on the Mall.

- Ryan Androsoff, MPP '10

Monday, Jan. 19, 2009
3.50 p.m.

Here are some photos from today's service event at DC's Marvin Gaye Park, which was a huge success. Gordon Robison, MC/MPA '08, who volunteered for the Obama campaign full-time in Vermont last fall, says of the day of service, "It seemed like something you had to do to be fully part of the inauguration."

HKS '08 alums Karen Vega and Molly Kinder at DC's Marvin Gaye park for a day of service before the inauguration. Nearly 20 HKS students and alumni showed up.

MC/MPA '08 Gordon Robison, raking leaves in the park.

Children were on hand to volunteer, too.

HKS Volunteers in front of the entrance to Marvin Gaye Park.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Monday, Jan. 19, 2009
2.30 p.m.

Crowds make their way towards the concert on Sunday afternoon.

- Molly Lanzarotta

Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009
6:00 p.m.

I'm thawing out. I just got back inside from the Inauguration Concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which was great: full of gospel choirs, acoustic guitars and bald eagles. And although I was most eager to see Stevie Wonder and Beyonce, I have to admit that Garth Brooks stole the show.

The crowd was beyond massive. The cold was worse than I can tell you. But the mood was perfect. Celebratory, hopeful, ebullient.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009
1:10 p.m.

Inauguration Tickets

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009
5:15 p.m.

So, it seems my Amtrak train to DC for the Inauguration is behind the president elect. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, family and friends are riding Amtrak from Philadelphia to DC this weekend, with several stops along the way, to commemorate Lincoln's historic inaugural train ride. This is all good and well, unless you're in the train behind their entourage.

Oh well. It's another story to tell. And maybe Mr. Obama will reward my fellow passengers and I with inauguration tickets to make up for the inconvenience...

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

Friday, Jan. 16, 2009

12.30 p.m.

Inauguration-mania is taking over the Harvard Kennedy School. You can't walk from one January class to another without hearing whisperings of balls, dinners, watch parties and more. Discussions of carpooling, ticket-swapping and after-partying have made HKS feel a bit like the week before your high school prom.

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum is hosting a viewing of the inauguration on the Kennedy School campus next Tuesday, but many HKS students will be in DC themselves to see it all. Nearly 100 have begun organizing via Facebook and Twitter, and a Day of Service has already been planned for HKS students and Alums in DC on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More info on the service event can be found on the Facebook group.

Patrick Hidalgo, joint student with MIT Sloan, and Hispanic Vote Director for Florida in the Obama campaign, said: "This is the first event I'm going to where I know I'll look back on it when I'm 80. It's a new day. It's gonna be fun."

That it will. I'll do my best to keep you updated on the HKS-D.C. takeover. It will definitely be an experience.

- Sam Sanders, MPP '09

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