WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s supporters at his inaugural address, though less numerous than in 2009, were nonetheless riding high following his speech Monday. With crowds spilling out into neighboring streets from the National Mall, audience members reflected on the personal significance of their presence.
Dr. Rashmi Murthy, 36, of Miami applauded Obama for his notably strong tone on global warming and gay marriage during his inaugural speech.
“Now, he has nothing to lose,” she said, hinting at a hope among supporters that Obama will leave no stone unturned during his second go-round in the White House.
Kori Graves, 39, of Albany, N.Y., whose mother spoke of her own trip to Washington to see Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hallowed speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, wished to be “a part of history” along with her 2-year-old son, Orion. Though the loud speakers intermittently failed her, she approved of what she heard of his address.
“His message is powerful," Graves said. "We are not finished.”
And the weight of the day wasn’t lost on the young. Yuxing Zheng, 8, attended for a chance to see his “favorite” president, trying to view Obama on the Jumbotrons scattered through the crowd.
“It doesn’t happen every year, so that is why I must attend,” Zheng said.
Gitendra Uswatte, 44, a naturalized citizen from Sri Lanka, came with his wife, Dihani, and their two boys to impart the day’s significance on 8-year-old Susman and 6-year-old Asel.
“This is an example for our kids, to be part of something that might not happen for a long time,” Dihani said. “It’s taken how long for an African American to be president?”
Even some who don’t support Obama were compelled to attend the inaugural ceremony. Carl W. Toepel, 73 of Wisconsin, who was a delegate for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008 and voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, made his fourth inaugural trip.
“As a Christian, it’s my duty to support my president and pray for him,” he said.
But not everyone was optimistic. Richard King, 66, of Washington, D.C. and a former Obama fundraiser, addressed the tempered expectations tied to the president’s second term.
“Reality’s set in,” he said, “No one’s talking about change anymore.”