Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Eyes on D.C. (Jessica Johnson)

What is there to say that hasn't already been said?

Other than a few organizational and logistics problems, the Washington Center's seminar has been extremely well done. They have gone to a lot of trouble finding the best and most entertaining speakers available, from former "Good Morning, America" host Steve Bell, to CNN's congressional correspondent who covered the McCain campaign Dana Bash, to Secret Service Agent David O'Connor, giving us a broad range of perspectives on the inauguration and the presidency as an institution. We've discussed the way physical appearance can shape public opinion, where and how the president gets his power, and whether the media and its alleged liberal bias gave Obama an unfair advantage.

But my favorite question so far was posed by Brian Lamb of C-SPAN: "What are your expectations for an Obama administration?" I think those of us who bought into Obama's message of hope and change, who spouted the phrase "Yes, We Can," throughout the campaign (even though I am still fully behind him and believe in the message) have realized that just getting Obama elected isn't enough. Washington and our system of government are dedicated to long-standing traditions and limitations set up by the Constitution. It's easy to say that I wish Obama could unilaterally implement his policies now that my views are being represented in the White House. It's much more difficult to have faith in the slow, deliberative process that is Congress, especially when it could ruin everything I've hoped for. But I will strive to uphold what I know are strong American principles while still advocating and hoping for change.

What has interested me most in this city, however, has nothing to do with the seminar. Our time spent traveling and our free time have allowed me to see how people, organizations, businesses, and the city as a whole are reacting to the upcoming inauguration. The city is obviously spending an incredible amount of money to get ready--the construction, the security, the porta-potties (sp?)... It's an incredible thing to witness. Businesses, like IKEA, use Obama's mantras of "change" and "yes, we can" as advertisement slogans. And the people of D.C. know that the world's eyes are on their city and carry their pride everywhere they go. While the Founders wanted an executive as unlike a monarch as possible, our modern-day celebrations do seem to reflect a coronation--the possible king of the free world.

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