Post Columnists Discuss Day's Events
Post columnist Eugene Robinson was online earlier today to discuss the historical significance of the day and more.
Cincinnati, Ohio: Dear Eugene. Every thing had been said, everything has been pondered, history has been made. My question is simple ... what does Obama's election mean to YOU? Thank you.
Eugene Robinson: It means that the words of this country's founding charters are more real than they have ever been before, at least for me. It means that eight years of a consequential but (in my opinion) tragic presidency are over. It means that our leaders are going to try, finally, to deal with problems that have festered and grown for years. It doesn't mean that everything is peaches and cream from now on, but it feels like the start of something big.
Sanibel Island, Fla.: There are many things that make the election of Barack Obama thrilling. One that resonates with me (as the father of two mixed-race sons) is a comment I heard from one young man who has always seen Michael Jordan as his hero -- as he now says, "I now have a new hero."
Eugene Robinson: I do think the fact of Obama's inauguration as president will have an impact on many young African American boys and men who, in the past, have been able to cite evidence to justify a lack of ambition to succeed on the terms of this society. Yes, you can be anything when you grow up.
Lahaina, Hawaii: Maybe it was a "nuts and bolts" speech to you, but I was moved. There was lots of stirring rhetoric, from "the bitter brew of slavery" (was that it?) and "reach out with an open hand and not a closed fist"... he has a gift.
I wish he'd get less stirring, I'm getting tired of crying every time he speaks.
Eugene Robinson: You have a point. Prose from this guy sounds like poetry from most folks. Just objectively, it should be against the law for a politician to write as well as he does.
Post Metro columnist Marc Fisher also was on earlier today, and discussed some of the logistical issues that cropped up during the day.
Arlington, Va.: How do our inaugurations compare to other countries? Are they as large and full of participations as ours, or are they more restrictive, so that only the high and mighty attend parties and balls?
Marc Fisher: We have this curious and to many other countries strange system in which we combine the head of state and the head of government in one person, so all the pomp that people in many countries associate with the monarch is lumped in with the actual person whom we elect to run things. So our system is confusing to people from many other countries, but we generally do a decent job of separating out the functions within one person. We have had periods when the head of state functions have taken weirdly front-row status, as when Nixon decided to dress up the White House guard in bizarrely frou-frou unis. But then along comes a Carter to try to restore some rationality and common sense to the mix.
Silver Spring, Md.: We had purple tickets for the inauguration, and waited in line for 4 hours in a tunnel with thousands of other people. We gave up at 10:30, and went home to watch it on TV. What happened to the other tunnel people?
Marc Fisher: You're a member of probably the most disgruntled group out there -- people who were supposed to sit very close up in the Purple seating section near the Capitol faced probably the toughest setback of the ticketed crowd, as security forces cut off access for quite some time. The police at first said that all ticketholders got in, then backed off and said that some were indeed turned away. Our reporters on the scene said that it got a bit hairy there for a time, and quite a number of folks gave up and left, but among those who stayed, many did get in.
Silver Spring, Md.: One more note on the purple ticket holders stuck in the tunnel -- there were no efforts to communicate with the crowd, there were no police in the tunnel (just some cars that went through with sirens and lights flashing) and no restroom facilities. I think they're lucky it didn't get out of hand.
Marc Fisher: Well, you wouldn't expect restrooms in a highway tunnel, I don't think. Using the tunnel was a pretty clever solution to a difficult problem: If you have an enormous crowd that was never put through security, and many hundreds of thousands of people want to cross the secured parade route, the only way to do that is to make them do a massive end run clear across the city, or put them underground, beneath the secured route. That's why they used the D Street tunnel. Not the most comfy or pleasant way to cross the city, but better than making everyone walk all the way up to 21st Street or so.
Bethesda, Md.: Security, PIC, SOMEBODY, screwed up -- I had purple tickets and waited 4.5 hours, right up until noon. Three people around me passed out and had to get medical attention. People were crying, saying they had flown from California and Chicago and could not believe they weren't being let in. I got right up to the gate (after finally jumping the line because it just wasn't moving) and still did not make it in. Lucky me, I only came from Bethesda and did not waste too much money trying to get to the Mall... only time. Yet I am still happy because Obama is president.
Marc Fisher: So far, about 200 people have been treated for medical problems at stations along the Mall, but only four were serious enough to require transport to hospitals.
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