Huddled around a celebratory lunch, the three ladies from Richmond, Virginia, basked in the afterglow of their president’s second inauguration.
“We won the election for him, you know,” Beverly Davis told the Irish Examiner.
For her and her two friends, Carolyn Harris and Xochela James, this was as personal as it can get: Three African-American women who helped at the grassroots of a successful campaign to deliver the vital battleground which normally describes itself as the “state for lovers”.
Sunday night was the Virginia Ball, but yesterday they joined fellow supporters from the rest of the US for one last hurrah, covering every blade of glass along that iconic space between Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument, waiting patiently for the big speech.
“It was outstanding,” gushed Davis. “He hit all the main points about what he plans to do. He reached out to both parties. He touched on gay rights. He spoke about immigrants.
“You can’t do it all in four years. It’s great that he has another term to finish what he’s started.”
Davis headed up the Virginia group Progressive Women For Obama, which raised $500,000 (€375,000) for a campaign which inspired vote-getting like never before.
“The Republicans are still shocked,” she said, leaning in to emphasise her point.
“They still don’t know where those voters came from. It was like those secret tunnels in slavery time. Very low key and very powerful.”
Also from Virginia, father and daughter, Ken and Brianna Rock were less enthused by the speech.
“I just don’t feel like I heard a great speech,” Ken said. “I was so disappointed — it needed to be more visionary.”
“It didn’t inspire me,” his daughter agreed. “I don’t think he made the switch from campaign mode to inspiration mode.”
At least they were able to hear it. On the southern side of the Mall, one lone anti-abortion protestor who climbed a tree spent almost the duration of the ceremony roaring his opposition to the president.
Police struggled to get him down and when they did secure a couple of ladders, he simply climbed higher, according to Alexandria Chambers and Natasha Green who witnessed the incident.
“It’s a shame because we flew from LA to be here for this and we couldn’t hear the speech,” Chambers said.
“People were telling him to shut up, but all I kept saying was stuff like ‘Obama is killing the babies’, and ‘America will burn in hell’.”
Celebrities who didn’t scoop the top tickets mingled freely, while people of all ages and from all corners of the nation enjoyed the three-hour event which was kicked off by the YouTube stars of the Staten Island Public School 22 choir.
One of the many highlights was Cleveland’s Lee University choir whose rendition of ‘This Land is your Land’ moved many, including Megan Hanly and Megan Crouch, friends from Arizona but working in DC.
“This is so incredible,” Crouch said. “Hearing this music makes being here all the more memorable.”
Both avowed supporters of Obama, for them the opportunity to attend was a purely political celebration.
“Four years ago was incredible, but this is enjoyable too. I really think in the next four years, he’ll drive the change we need.”
Limerick native Eoin Hayes, who worked on the Obama campaign but was present in a personal capacity and wasn’t speaking on behalf of the president, agreed about the great energy around the capital.
“The president’s speech has really resonated strongly with Democrats. It’s apparently the first time the word, ‘gay’, in the context of the LGBT community, has been used in an inaugural speech. So he really threw down the gauntlet to the Republican House and challenged them to find solutions, rather than being a simple party of opposition.
“There was a real affection in the crowd not just for the president, but the Obama administration as a whole. President Clinton got a big cheer, as well,” said Hayes, adding: “This term will be very different.”
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