Saturday, January 31, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration: Day 5

Day 5: January 18, 2009
Hi, this is Wes. Today, Mom and I went to the Opening Celebration for President Obama's Inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial while Dad and Will moved our stuff over to our friends, the Merkle's, house. The price for our hotel room went $500 higher today. YIKES! So our friends who live right on Capitol Hill, the Merkle's, are nice enough to host us for the rest of the time we're here.

So, anyway, mom and I walked to the Memorial and found our seats. The good news is that we had great seats because we got there early (most people had to stand up). The bad news is that we had to wait for more than two hours in the freezing cold for the show to start. I was so cold that I was begging Mom to leave when the show first started. But she put more handwarmers in my shoes and gloves, and we stayed. (Moral of this story: Be prepared.)

I'm glad we stayed because the show was totally amazing. We were pretty close to the front, so we could see everything. But we also had a jumbotron screen to the side of us so that we could see all of the bands and singers up close.

So, the show started with Bruce Springsteen. That was pretty cool. I've never seen him in person and he was great. Then the Obama's and Bidens were introduced (this picture to the left is of them together waving to the crowd from the stage before they went to their seats.

Then lots of other performers came on. And I mean LOTS! There were people like Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington who talked about past presidents, like Lincoln, Kennedy and Roosevelt and talked about things the Presidents had said and done to give people hope when things were bad.

There were so many bands and singers that I can't remember everyone. Some of them were Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crowe, Beyonce, Usher, James Taylor, Mary J. Blige, and lots more.

However, I only got up out of my seat twice. First, Garth Brooks came on and sang "American Pie" with a big choir. That was awesome. I know every word of that song. But then, they started singing "Shout!" The entire place got up and put their fists in the air for Garth. It was AMAZING! In the picture above, you can see everyone with their fists and cameras in the air while Garth dances across the stage in front of the choir.

The second time I got up out of my seat was for U2. BONO! LIVE! One of the song's they sang was "In the Name of Love"--definitely one of their best songs. This picture of me with U2 in the background. Our seats were actually more over to the center, but mom didn't want to block other people while we took the picture. The next picture is of U2 from our seats. They were amazing.

Yeah, it was freezing cold, but I think it was worth it to get to see all of these great musicians and stars in one place. Also, it was really exciting to see the Obama's and Bidens. Everybody was so happy and excited about the inauguration. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Trivia: The statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial shows one of President Lincoln's hands open and the other in a fist. Many people believe that the sculptor, Chester French, did this as a tribute to his deaf son and to memorialize Lincoln's signing of legislation that allowed the deaf university, Gallaudet, to grant college degrees. It is said that his hands are actually forming his initials, "A" and "L" in American Sign Language.

President Obama's Inauguration: Day 4

Day 4: Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today started off with Wesley and me watching a bunch of our favorite shows on Discovery Channel and History Channel (yes, these are our favorite channels. Deal. haha) while our mom wheeled and dealed to get us event tickets (all we had as of this morning was Swearing-In tickets). Having pulled that off, thanks to her new best friend "Jonathan The Magnificent", we headed to the US Capitol.

Since my dad was a Congressman, we can go into the Capitol even when it's "closed". So tonight we took Maggie (the volunteer coordinator from the Obama for Utah campaign and friend from school) and her dad on a private tour of the capitol. It's good to go at night when it isn't packed with people so you can see everything. It was also fun showing Maggie places that aren't open to the public. The first place we took her was the floor of the US House of Representatives. This is where congressmen debate and vote on legislation.

In the first picture above, I am standing where President Obama will stand to give the State of the Union address and where lots of other presidents have stood, as well. If you look closely, you can see Wesley sitting in the Speaker of the House's chair, and Maggie standing beside him.
In the second picture to the left, Wesley is standing at the podium that is used for the State of the Union. This has been the House Chamber since 1857. Before that, the House of Representatives met in Statuary Hall (also called the Rotunda).

Next, we showed Maggie the Speaker's Lobby balcony. This area is not open to the public because it is sort of a "sanctuary" for members of congress. In the Speaker's Lobby, you can find newspapers from all over the world. Members can go there and read a paper between votes. In nice weather, they can go out on the Speaker's Balcony and relax on a lounge chair with a great view of the city. There are also a few work tables so that members of congress can meet with each other and still be close to the House floor for votes.

Then, we showed Maggie Statuary Hall (or Rotunda). This is one of the most amazing rooms in the capitol. It is where the capitol dome is. The Rotunda used to hold statues of two important citizens from each state. However, when it got too crowded, the Architect of the Capitol moved some of the statues to the Brumidi Hallways that go through the House and Senate sides of the Capitol. Now, some of the statues have even been moved to the new Visitor's Center. The picture to the right is Maggie with the statue of Brigham Young that is still in Statuary Hall.

Before 1857, Statuary Hall served as the House Chamber. John Quincy Adams is the only US President to serve in the US Congress after completing his Presidency.

In the next picture, Wesley, Maggie and I are testing out the crazy acoustics in Statuary Hall that once allowed John Quincy Adams to overhear his political foe's whispers from all the way across the room. The story goes that Pres. Adams (who served in the House for several decades after his presidency) would pretend to be sleeping at his desk. In fact, due to a quirk of architecture in the domed room, he was listening to every word that was whispered by his foes across the aisle. Today, there are plaques on the floor that show you where to stand to test out Adams' technique yourself. We toured the rest of the capitol, then went to our friends, the Merkle's, house for a nice fondue dinner. It was a really fun night.
TRIVIA: John Quincy Adams had a stroke while sitting at his desk in the House Chamber (now Statuary Hall) and died two days later in the Speaker's Office in the Capitol.
TRIVIA: There are actually eight different levels in the new US Capitol Visitor’s Center, but the public will probably only ever be allowed to see the top two.

President Obama's Inauguration: DAYS 1-3

Day 1: Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
At the end of November, I had a surgery on my Achilles tendons and have been in casts on both legs for two months. So, today we left for DC to attend President Obama's Inauguration...and discovered how hard it is to travel with a wheelchair. We didn't rent a car for the trip, so we are taking the subway everywhere and walking (or riding in the wheelchair!) alot. It gives me a lot more appreciation for people who use wheelchairs all of the time. It would be very hard to get around town without help. I'm so glad I get my casts off when we get back home.

Today is also Wesley's birthday, so we went to Union Station for dinner. Our friends Pat and Richard Merkle, who live a block away from Union Station, met us there. It was fun seeing them since we're not in DC very often. Since I had several huge projects due before we left for DC, I was really tired. So we went back to our hotel, watched Discovery Channel for a while, then crashed. TRIVIA: Union Station (pictured left) is the site of President Obama's Eastern States Ball, as well as several other balls and dinners during inaugural week.

Day 2: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Today was a slow day. We didn't leave the hotel til 1:30 PM. Then we went to the Capitol to pick up our inauguration tickets and have a late lunch. We walked through the capitol and looked at the exhibit in th Senate corridor about past inaugurations. It was interesting to see what inaugurations used to look like. TRIVIA: All of the inaugurations at the US Capitol were held on the East Front of the Capitol (where the new Capitol Visitor's Center was just built--shown at the top of this entry) until President Ronald Reagan held his on the West Front (facing the Mall).

Day 3: Friday, January 16, 2009
Today we visited embassy row and Woodrow Wilson's retirement home (shown left). We walked up Massachusetts Avenue where there are lots of Embassy's from different countries around the world. Then we got to President Wilson's home. There we saw the interior of the home and a presidential china collection that was almost exactly like the one they have in the China Room at the White House. It was at President Wilson's house because his wife, Edith, actually started the China Room Collection at the White House.
Since I had casts on both legs, we got to ride in President Wilson's old Otis elevator (a picture of Wes and me in the elevator is on the left). It was awesome to think how many times he used that same elevator, too, since he had a stroke right before he left the White House and had a hard time taking the stairs. We spent several hours with the nice curator there, and my mom and I got some interesting ideas for the book we are writing together about DC.
After we left the Wilson home, we walked to Connecticut Avenue for dinner and passed more Embassies. It was fun to see all of the flags and to try to guess which countries flags they were before we got close enough to read the brass plaques on the door.
Along the way, we found this cute Panda painted with Chinese designs. Then we went to dinner and watched the unbelievable story of the plane that crashed into the Hudson River. That pilot was a hero, for sure. Today ends our laid back, "Enjoy DC" part of the trip. Tomorrow the real stuff starts.
TRIVIA: If you are on the property of a foreign embassy, you are theoretically on that country's soil. So, let's say, you are on the property of the British Embassy in DC, you are considered to be on "British Soil"--not American. And while you are on the grounds of the British Embassy, British law applies. So, theoretically, if you are walking along Embassy Row, you can go to dozens of countries within an hour's time--without a passport!