As President Obama took his second oath of office, several Roaring Fork Valley residents were on hand. A group of Glenwood Springs High School students made the trek. So did the chair of the Garfield County Democrats. Aspen Public Radio’s David Frey caught up with Jack Real on his second attempt to see Mr. Obama’s inauguration.
Listen to the story here: Inauguration
[HAWKER SOUND: “Shirts and hats, guys. Obama shirts and hats. Half price. All sizes on the shirts.”]
Long before President Barack Obama took his second oath of office, Glenwood Springs resident Jack Real and his friends were joining thousands of others as the slowly funneled into Washington, DC and on to the National Mall. As they passed vendors hawking all manner of souvenirs for the event Real and his group wound up in a seemingly endless line.[JACK REAL: “Lots of people. Lines around blocks around blocks around blocks. We probably walked around two or three blocks to get where we are and now we’re retracing our steps because we’re at the back of the line and that started three blocks ago.”] [CROWD SOUNDS]
The wait turned out to be an hours long adventure in freezing temperatures. All the while they knew they would likely never even catch a glimpse of the man they had come to see sworn in. Wearing fuzzy hats, furry boots and puffy coats, they gripped steaming cups of coffee, waved flags and sported Barack Obama campaign buttons…. And they waited.[Real: It’s pretty amazing and the mood is remarkable. People from all over talking to people from all over. It’s just a great kind of good feeling.]
Many hopeful spectators came without tickets, squeezing along the parade route to join the scene as the presidential motorcade rolled past. Others, like Real and his colleagues from Peoria, Illinois, had tickets to the inauguration, but little hope of getting a good view.[Real: “I think that we are here and that’s what’s important. I don’t expect to see something.”]
As Real learned the hard way, a ticket did not guarantee getting in. He came four years ago for Obama’s first inauguration and made it to the front gate. The only problem that day… no one ever opened the gate, and Real, like thousands of other ticket holders, were turned away. He ended up watching it on TV at a hotel restaurant.[Real: “But at the moment president Obama gave his oath of office it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. … Hugs all around. Tears. It was just a most wonderful thing.” [16 sec]
Nearly two million people turned out four years ago to see America’s first black president take the oath of office. This time around, officials estimate, the crowds are about half that size. But for Real, it’s still a historic moment, and one he wanted to take part in.[Real: “I wanted to be part of a second try to do what needs to be done for this country.”
Real feels a strong connection with Obama. It’s not just that he’s the chairman of the Garfield County Democratic Party and worked for his election twice. Real grew up in Illinois, Obama’s home state. He served as a priest there, lived in the inner city, became an advocate for the fair housing and learned community organizing from the same people who trained Obama in community organizing.[Real: “As they ridIcule him sometimes for being a community organizer, I on the contrary respect that a great deal having lived in a neighborhood that needed that kind of thing. This inauguration and the last inauguration just mean a great deal to me. Its very, very moving to me to realize this country was willing to elect a man of those convictions.”
As it happens, Real was with old friends from Illinois who, as it happens, are Jim Runyon and Mary Piper, who unbeknownst to this reporter, have an interesting connection to Aspen. They secured tickets from a Republican Illinois Congressman.[JIM RUNYON: “Our youngest son, Luke Runyan, is a reporter for Aspen Public Radio.”
ME: ‘That’s hilarious.”
MARY PIPER: Hi, Luke!
The line wound down the street, around the block and along the perimeter of a parking lot before it reached the gate. Ironically,it was the same gate Jack Real got stuck at four years ago. This time, he made it through.
For Aspen Public Radio News in Washington, DC, I’m David Frey.