Vermonters out in force at inaugural celebration
By David Moats
STAFF WRITER | January 22,2013
WASHINGTON — Vermonters gathering among the multitudes for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration said its importance exceeded even the joyfulness and hope that prevailed four years before.
Jim Leddy, a former state senator from Burlington, was among hundreds of thousands thronging to the Mall on a cool morning Monday. At a reception for Vermonters in Washington on Sunday evening, he said that at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, he had felt the happy communion of Americans of every race who had gathered 2 million strong at the swearing-in.
For Leddy, the importance of the second inauguration was plain: “It wasn’t a fluke.”
By 8 a.m. Monday, subways into the city were full of people in heavy coats, long scarves and sensible shoes. The L’Enfant Plaza Metro station was the get-off point for many. There, escalators were not working and people trapped in human gridlock carried on in good humor.
“I’ve got my radar shield up,” one woman said. “No negative feelings.”
Security arrangements at the Mall channeled people to numerous color-coded areas, according to their tickets — red, green, yellow, orange or brown.
By 10:20 a.m., the Marine Corps Band at the foot of the speaker’s platform was playing an elegant arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” and announcements were heard as dignitaries arrived.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
By 10:30 a.m., the press area up front was filling, people ushered to their seats by blue-coated Coast Guardsmen. The band was playing “The Liberty Bell March.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, the mayor of the District of Columbia.”
At 10:45 a.m., Sen. Patrick Leahy appeared on the speaker’s platform overlooking the crowds spreading out on the Mall.
Rep. Kesha Ram, a Democratic House member from Burlington, was among the Vermonters who traveled to Washington for the inauguration. She said after one term of bitter partisan rancor “it feels different than four years ago. There was so much uncertainty in so many ways. The next four years are really about action.”
Now, Ram said she believed Obama was “not afraid to be who he really is.”
The legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was on the minds of many people and not just because Inauguration Day happened to fall on the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.
Judy Bevans of Craftsbury Common is a former chairwoman of the Vermont Democratic Party. She remembered the days after the assassination of King in 1968. She said she was so outraged that she obtained signatures from neighbors in New York for a letter to Sen. Robert Kennedy demanding action to control firearms. Kennedy responded with a letter agreeing that something had to be done about guns.
Less than two months later, Kennedy himself was murdered with a handgun.
Bevans said she found Obama’s re-election “ really gratifying.”
“History is going to treat this man very well,” she said.
Bevans was among hundreds of Vermonters and friends of the state who gathered at a $100-a-ticket reception Sunday evening. It was held by the Vermont State Society, a special organization for Vermonters and friends of the state in Washington.
Vermont products were there in abundance. WhistlePig Rye whiskey flowed freely, along with Long Trail Ale. Grafton Village Cheese and Gringo Jack’s chips were consumed along with other tasty foodstuffs. The celebratory rhetoric also flowed.
Sen. Bernard Sanders proclaimed that Vermont was “a model for what this nation can be.”
Rep. Peter Welch said the secret of Vermont’s political comity was that “we listen to one another and we care about one another.”
Not all of those attending the inauguration were political luminaries.
Nancy Diaferio, owner of Al Ducci’s Italian Pantry in Manchester, brought her mother up from Florida for the event. She said the re-election of Obama “proves that the people of this country are ready for some change.” She added, “it’s an awesome thing.”
Diaferio’s mother, Irene Diaferio, 76, of Viera, Fla., came to the United States as an immigrant when she was 18 years old, Nancy Diaferio said. Coming to Obama’s inauguration “is one of the most exciting things in her life that she’ll ever do,” Nancy Diaferio said.
King’s legacy was an animating spirit throughout the weekend. At All Souls Unitarian Church, the Rev. Dr. Susan Newman delivered a sermon Sunday linking Dr. King and “brother Barack,” underscoring the importance for both leaders of building coalitions — black and white, men and women, gay and straight. She mentioned that a previous pastor of All Souls was murdered down South during the civil rights struggle.
Now was a new morning, she said.
King’s legacy was laced throughout the inaugural remarks on Monday.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, civil rights leader and the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, gave the innovation, mentioning historic touchstones such as the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.
Obama’s remarks dwelled on our “never-ending journey” toward freedom and justice, evoking the language of Lincoln and King. He, too, cited some touchstones of our history — Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall.
“We cannot walk alone,” he said.
Scudder Parker, Democratic candidate for Vermont governor in 2006, came to the reception Sunday evening. He said he felt “a visceral connection to Obama as with no previous president.”
When Obama appeared on the platform at the Capitol on Monday, the chant went up from a sea of people spread out on the Mall.
They felt a connection, too.