Local folks descend on D.C. for inauguration

Jan 21, 2013

Among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who will gather Monday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness the swearing-in of President Obama to a second term will be many from our area.

They are going for all manner of reasons – most were ardent supporters of his re-election and were there four years ago when more than two million people crowded the Mall for the inauguration of the first African-American president, some were financial donors to the president’s re-election campaign., and many are going with their children to give them a lesson in American democracy and to witness history.

Here are some of their stories:

Shawn Curtis:

Shawn Curtis of Cambridge City in Wayne County, Ind., is a Republican; he voted for Mitt Romney for president last fall. His wife, Adriane, is a Democrat and voted for Obama.

“We like to call ourselves a mixed marriage,’’ said Curtis, a Miami University graduate who teaches high school history in  Connersville, Ind.

Four years ago, Curtis took his then six-year-old son Sullivan to Washington for the first Obama inauguration, what Curtis described as “an amazing experience.”

This year, he is taking his seven-year-old son Theo; they will stop at the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa., and other historic sites on their way to the nation’s capital.

“We have always told our kids that mommy and I don’t agree on politics, but we have much more in common that holds us together,’’ Curtis said.

He said he wants to show his children that the president is president of the whole nation, “not just a faction and that it is OK to put aside politics to celebrate the continuation of our constitutional legacy. We do that every day in this house.” 

Four years ago, he said he and his son Sullivan were on the District’s Metro subway and met a woman who was a descendant of Harriet Tubman, the 19th century former slave and abolitionist. The woman, Curtis said, “gave him a present out of love.” It was a moving experience for both of them.

“This year, who knows what kind of experience Theo and I might have,’’ Curtis said. “But I want this to be an experience that he will not forget. And an experience that teaches him something about how our democracy works.”

Ben Moore:

Moore and his wife, Beverly, who live in Forest Park, arrived in Washington Thursday and plan to stay until Tuesday.

They are there because they are ardent supporters of President Obama; and want to be present when he begins his second term amid the pomp and circumstance of a presidential inauguration.

“We couldn’t get any tickets for the officials events,’’ Moore said, although he said he would keep working on snagging some while in Washington.

Otherwise, they will be among the hundreds of thousands crowded into the non-ticketed area of the National Mall, where there will be many large-screen TV monitors set up for those who will have a distant view of the platform built on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Moore – retired from GE and working now for a GE contractor – said he and his wife will go visit the relatively-new Martin Luther King Jr. Monument in West Potomac Park near the Tidal Basin. Monday, when the public inauguration and the inaugural parade will take place, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“We’ve wanted to see the King monument, and we’ll see a lot of other sites as well,’’ Moore said. “But we want to be there on the Mall Monday. To be part of history.”

Rodney Bowman:

Bowman, an account manager with AT&T in Dayton, Ohio, is a native of the Washington, D.C. area.

He is going with his brothers-in-law and their wives; and at least one of his two sons, ages 9 and 6.

“My mom and dad live in Clinton, Maryland, just outside of Washington,’’ Bowman said. “They’re real close to the Metro line, so we can get down to the Mall pretty easily.”

Like the Moores, he wants his children to see the King monument, which he has seen on previous trips back home.

“It’s kind of like a homecoming for me,’’ Bowman said. “But I want to show the kids the sights and let them experience this.

“We’ll absolutely be out on the Mall Monday for the swearing-in, although we may be pretty far back,’’ Bowman said.

Bowman said he was there four years ago on the Mall and could see what was happening on the distant podium clearly on the TV monitors.

“There were over two million people there that day and just being part of that was exciting,’’ Bowman said. “This year won’t be a crowd that big, but it is history and I want my family to be part of it.”

Ruth and John Sikorski:

The couple from Mason made some campaign contributions to the Obama re-election campaign; and their son worked for the campaign out of the Obama-Biden office in downtown Mason.

They have tickets for two receptions for Ohioans who make the journey to Washington – one a more informal affair on Saturday and a second one at the Ohio Democratic Party’s headquarters hotel that Ruth Sikorski said was more formal.

“We’re excited as can be just to be able to be there,’’ she said.

Ruth Sikorski said they went to the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in January 1993.

“I remember the energy and the excitement from that one,’’ Sikorski said. “The Democrats had been out of power for so long and people were just ecstatic. This is a second inauguration, which is always a little more low-key, but it is still going to be fun. It’s still a celebration.”

Karen Fahlgren:

At the first Obama inauguration four years ago, the weather was so brutally cold – 19 degrees at the noon swearing-in – that Fahlgren and her husband, Wes Wettengel, left their three small children behind with the friends they were staying with in Alexandria and went to the Mall themselves.

This year, the Anderson Township couple, both of whom used to live in Washington, D.C., are hoping the weather will be more moderate and the kids – boys ages 10 and 8 and a four-year-old girl – will be able to experience a presidential swearing-in for themselves. 

“We might take a sub-set of them depending on the weather,’’ said Fahlgren.

They’ll be staying again with friends in Alexandria and taking the Metro subway to the Mall and other sites.

“This year, the boys were full of questions about politics and the election,’’ Fahlgren said. “I was amazed at how closely they were following what was going on between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I’d really like them to see the end product of that election – a day where everyone comes together to honor a president who is president of all the people. That is something special to see.”