January 28, 2009 Edition

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Submitted Photos ~ Ted Jaditz
Beth Bland Girolamo and son, Cullen, of Brooklyn, stood in the mall during President Obama's inauguration.

A 'Letter from Washington'

Leigh Riddick
Guest Writer

(Editor's note: Leigh Riddick of Bethesda, Md., grew up in Walnut Ridge. A professor of finance at American University in Washington, D.C., she is the daughter of the late Milly Bland Riddick and the late Edgar Riddick.)

In the spirit of the New Yorker magazine column that ran for many years, with no attribution to same, I send this Letter from Washington regarding the inauguration of Barack Obama.

My cousin, Beth Bland, and her son, Cullen, came to visit us and to join the crowd in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Barack Obama, our 44th president. I write this report without her assistance, and please keep in mind that she works in journalism, and I do not. That said, here's a personal report from Bethesda, Md., which is literally just outside of Washington.

I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but the D.C. area was completely taken with the event, the person, and the hope it generated. Not everyone voted for Obama, but everyone I have spoken to since the election wishes him well, including some die-hard Bush supporters. For the record, as a business school professor, I know a lot of Republicans, although readers of this paper will know my family and I tend to be on the Democratic side of the aisle.

The night prior to inauguration we got together with all the neighbors going downtown as we would not see them on the big day. The actual day my husband, Ted Jaditz, and I attacked the celebration in different ways: he joined Beth and Cullen on the trek downtown to try and be part of the crowd. I had the rest of the neighbors who chose not to make that journey to the mall over to my house, as I am still recovering from a "knee incident" and couldn't make the trip.


Submitted Photos ~ Ted Jaditz
This photo shows the crowd density during the inauguration near the base of the Washington Monument.

Beth, Cullen and Ted were gone about six hours and only sat down on the bus ride down and back, and it was cold; my neighbors and I watched every minute on TV and ate and drank our way through a "just bring something" smorgasbord in a warm house. Ted has a picture (which I am sending) that indicates the crowd density on the capital mall. At one point he estimated that if he held out his arm at full length, and turned in a circle, he would touch 14 individuals.

He and Beth and Cullen were lucky; they were in the last batch of folks allowed to enter the mall area and worked their way towards the Washington Monument, as crushing injuries were feared if the crowd was bigger. I clearly had fewer people than that in my house with no concern about space.

Beth, Cullen and Ted were surrounded by complete strangers, as many as two million by some estimates from all over the country and all walks of life. My crowd knew each other well, and was much smaller but still diverse. One neighbor, a republican who is passionate about urban renewal, put her Obama sign in her yard about the same time I did and brought a cheese plate.

Another neighbor, originally from Ethiopia but a U.S. citizen, arrived with traditional vegetable dishes and provided incredible insight on the view of Obama outside the U.S. She works on engineering related to national security. A doctor across the street brought apple pie (better than mine). He specializes in child psychology and commented on the younger view A couple who work in government and consulting brought petit fours, and the husband played 'Happy Days Are Here Again' on my piano. I added various appetizers and munchies, vegetarian chili, and watched in amazement as the crowd on the mall cheered and celebrated.

It was a hodge-podge regardless of where you were: on the mall or in a house in Bethesda, but everyone was excited. I hope the wonderful folks in Lawrence County had the same experience. Here's wishing our new president and his administration every success.

Note: Beth's older son James participated in the inaugural festivities with a field trip with his history class group from school, while husband Paul worked in NYC.

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