Crowd at Inauguration Speaks of New Era, Change
WASHINGTON (AP) _ ″Lift up your hearts,″ intoned inaugural poet Maya Angelou, and for a brief moment hundreds of thousands gathered to welcome a new president did just that.
Many in the crowd were ardent Democrats, celebrating their party’s return to the White House. But whatever their reasons for coming, those who witnessed Bill Clinton’s inauguration Wednesday radiated optimism and hope.
JoAnn White of Baltimore called it ″the dawn of a new day.″ Dorothy Jones of Fairbanks, Alaska, spoke of ″the wonderful atmosphere in the air.″
Dianne Knudsen, who borrowed money for her four-day train ride from Cathlamet, Wash., said Clinton had fostered a ″newfound oneness in a country ... I held hands with a black woman during the prayer at the swearing-in today and she and I looked at each other and both of us said, ’Hey, we’ve come a long way.‴
Some said they felt a strong sense of shared purpose emerging, both in the crowd and in the country.
″I hope that the positivism that’s being felt throughout this crowd doesn’t wear off too soon. This feeling has been missing since Reagan’s first term,″ said Quentin Pitcher of Cleveland.
″This has been just like one great big family,″ said 77-year-old Inez Hall of Okemah, Okla., as she waited patiently in a slow-moving crowd that was making its way off the Capitol grounds. ″Everybody’s so happy and loving.″
″Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings,″ said Angelou’s poem, sounding a theme of renewal captured in the crowd’s mood.
″The atmosphere in the air with the new administration, just the thought of it has changed things already,″ said Jones. ″This is the first inauguration I’ve been to. It’s the first time that I’ve wanted to come.″
Esther Herscovitch of Chevy Chase, Md., said Clinton’s presidency already marked all kinds of firsts for her. She immigrated to the United States from Canada 12 years ago and became a citizen in 1991.
″It was the first time I voted in an election. It was the first time I sang the Star-Spangled Banner,″ she said.
For retired speech teacher Beulah Jones of Shawnee, Okla., it was good prose, not poetry, that gave cause for celebration.
″It’s the end of 12 years of fractured syntax,″ said the 78-year-old. ″From a teacher’s point of view, the speech was near perfect. It sounded good to my ears.″
Hearing Clinton sworn in as president also sounded good, of course, to the many Arkansans in the crowd.
″I thought it was awesome ... the patriotic symbols, the beautiful day, the patchwork of this country,″ said Danny Thomason, the Clintons’ Little Rock optometrist and close personal friend. ″I think he’s really in touch with the ordinary people and what they feel.″
David Powers of Billerica, Mass., one of the crowd’s many ardent Democrats, agreed.
″I was getting tired of Republicans looking down at the average American as if we were beneath their notice,″ said Powers. ″To say this is sweet would be an understatement.″