Las Vegas Sun

August 25, 2019

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Starting the party

Obama sounds serious note as festive, patriotic mood grips capital



President-elect Barack Obama speaks Sunday during “We Are One: Opening Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial” in Washington.

Sunday celebration in Washington

People gather on the National Mall during the Launch slideshow »

Obama on Sunday

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The houses in the old Capitol Hill neighborhood here are decorated as if it was the Fourth of July.

Bunting drapes the fences. Glittery red, white and blue streamers fill the yards. Obama posters are in the gardens and windows.

As Nevadans pour into town for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, the district is welcoming them with unabashed patriotism.

Rep. Shelley Berkley’s townhouse on the Hill, which has become the prime gathering spot for home-state parties, will again be opened up this morning as the Democratic congresswoman welcomes the locals.

The Green Valley High School marching band will visit Rep. Dina Titus on the Cannon Terrace later today, and the state’s other lawmakers are similarly opening their doors and offices to those who made the trip East.

The mood in the city has been building for weeks — from the Obama-inspired ads that fill the subway stations (Pepsi has capitalized on the similarity between its logo and his, plastering bright ads with single-word slogans: “Together,” “Optimism” and “Hooray!”) to the Obama burgers at one of the local eateries.

The president-elect’s face started appearing on the Metro cards more than a week ago and the tchotchke industry of T-shirts, coffee mugs and winter beanies has generated its own economic stimulus operation. (Toasty “Obama pretzels” are the latest entry here.)

On Sunday, as the National Mall filled for the opening concert, the politics of hope that inspired an electoral landslide in November made way for the politics of joy.

Obama’s supporters seem willing to endure whatever it takes to be where he is — from the 80,000 people who lined up under the hot Denver sun to see him accept his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention last summer to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands in chilly, dark Washington on Sunday afternoon.

Yet, they seemed happy. They swayed along with the early performers (James Taylor singing “shower the people you love with love”), and by the time and Sheryl Crow did a duet of Bob Marley’s “One Love,” people were dancing on the grass.

The crowd didn’t miss a beat during “Little Pink Houses” when John Mellancamp came to the part that says: “You’re going to be president.”

There’s an often-repeated line in the speeches Obama gives that almost always gets huge applause. It’s the one where he talks about bringing the country together — “Democrats, Republicans and Independents; Latino, Asian and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not.”

Those were the people who showed up at the Mall on Sunday. They gathered between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol, creating a lasting image much like the one from those photos when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech years ago.

Sitting with his family near the grand statue of Lincoln, Obama rocked out a little, too. He mouthed the words as Garth Brooks led the crowd in “American Pie,” and nodded his head to the beat of Stevie Wonder, Shakira and Usher on “Higher Ground.”

But Obama’s own message, when he spoke toward the end of the show, was a somber one about the challenges ahead, again tamping down expectations that he can accomplish everything that is expected of him so soon.

He also hinted at the big task that may be coming in the days and weeks ahead.

“There is no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep,” Obama said. “But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard.

“I ask you to help me reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today.”

Nevadans know about the long road facing the nation. The state is among those hardest hit by the economic troubles.

Nevada voters helped send Obama to the White House, and will be watching his agenda unfold — even as those arriving this week pause for a moment to celebrate.

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