From the moment we got on the metro back in northern Virginia, it was like one big party. I looked around at everyone -many with Obama emblazoned hats, shirts, buttons and scarves - but even those without - smiles a mile wide plastered on all of our faces. All of us feeling it, just feeling that change was in the air, that history was about to be made and that we had been a part of it. Almost as soon as we got into DC a black guy with a camera asked to take our picture. "Yeah, white people for Obama!" I said. He high-fived me and we laughed. "Better days are ahead!" I said and he agreed.
We walked across the mall and toward the capital. Everywhere were the jumbotrons, the fenced off areas, the port-a-potties, the Obama paraphernalia and the people. Happy, happy people everywhere. And I'm thinking, this is Washington DC! I mean, I have been here, I don't know how many times in the past 8 years and it has never felt like this. Granted, when I've been here it's usually been to protest (god, there has been so much to protest over the past 8 years, it's hard to keep track). And each and every time I have felt like an enemy combatant. I have felt unwelcomed and as if I were an outsider, a thorn in the government's side. And yesterday, for the first time I felt like Washington DC was as much mine as anyone else's. Like maybe, just maybe it belonged to me.
For the first time in a very long time, when I saw all the American flags waving, I felt not jingoistic fear and anger but hope that maybe that flag could once again represent the dream of equality and justice for all people. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried when I saw the Capitol all wrapped up in red, white and blue bunting, saw the platform upon which Barack Obama will take the oath of office and even got to watch a few practice runs (with stand-ins). In fact, I shed quite a few tears yesterday. Walked around grinning like an idiot and spontaneously bursting into tears. And I don't think I'm the only one.
We were probably hours too late to get inside the security zone for the We Are One concert. A reporter from USA Today interviewed us just outside a security entrance that had just been closed. "Had do you feel about being turned away?" he asked. "Are the kids disappointed?" "Hell, it's just great to be here. To be part of this!" we told him. If he was looking for angry, unhappy people, I'm pretty sure he was in the wrong place. (Anyone know if we got quoted in USA Today?)
Leaving the concert, we stumpled upon the reporter and cameraman from our local newstation out of Springfield Massachusetts!!! Naturally, she interviewed us (anyone back home see us on Channel 40 News?) and we told them to watch for John in the Parade on Tuesday.
But total strangers also took our pictures - and we took theirs. "Where are you guys from?" two women from Mississippi asked us on a Metro platform? "Massachusetts!" we told them and they asked if they could take our pictures. "We're taking pictures of people from every state!" they told us excitedly. And we told them that we had worked for Obama in New Hampshire and we all squeeled with delight. And then, total strangers, we hugged each other good-bye.
Sunday was a long, exhausting day for us - tromping around DC with about a million of our closest friends. We got back to our car in Virginia at about 10 last night - absolutely spent. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just witnessed change take place. I felt it. I had never felt so much optimism, hope and joy in place before. It was like Woodstock - only cold and surrounded by 7,000 port-a-potties! And I swear, if someone had thought to put up booths where folks could sign up to help - to join the Peace Corps, Teach-for-America, Vista, whatever - I'm guessing folks would sign on by the thousands to roll up their sleeves and do whatever they could to help dig this country out of the hole we're in now.
It's not just about how much people love Obama. It's clear that they do. But they also love his optimism and his hopefulness. I think they - we - love his belief that we can be a better country than we have been (certainly these past 8 years, and maybe much longer). That's the change I think I feel. That after so many years of our leaders behaving badly and encouraging the worst in us, now we might finally have a President who wants more from us, who expects the best of us. And I think we are only too happy to give it.
I feel the change already. And it's not even inauguration day yet!