You’ve seen Barack, Michelle, Bill, Hillary, and Beyoncé. But what about their fans? An estimated 800,000 came to see President Obama sworn in for his second term, down from 1.8 million in 2009.
Obama's percentage of the youth vote was also down slightly from 2008, but Millennials—who were instrumental in his re-election—came out in force for his inauguration. It was a crowd of the President’s staunchest supporters, and Obama reflected their concerns with the progressive tone of his swearing-in speech.
Campus Progress asked a diverse group of inauguration attendees about what brought them to the event and common theme stood out. For those folks who missed Obama’s inauguration four years ago, a pilgrimage to Washington was their last chance at experiencing history.
FAYE GOLDEN // FLORIDA // HISTORY BUFF
“This is a historic event. It’s the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,” Golden (at right) told Campus Progress. “It’s King’s national day, and I wanted to bring my kid.” Has her opinion of President Obama changed since he first took office? “Yes, my respect for him has deepened,” she said.
JILLIANNE JACQUES AND BRANDON DESMARAIS // MASSACHUSETTS // SUPPORTERS
“I feel he’s more for the people that Mitt Rom—than other candidates were,” Desmarais, who traveled to the event with Westfield State University, told Campus Progress. He works at a grocery store in Massachusetts and studies biology.
JOHNNY AND WES // WASHINGTON, DC // DISSENTERS
“I’m here to celebrate America,” Wes said. “Regardless of the person getting elected I’m here to celebrate the rights I do have, and the rights I might not have for very long.” President Obama’s push to restrict gun sales after the Newtown shootings? “Shameful,” Wes told Campus Progress. Johnny insisted that he be photographed with his mouth full of tobacco; Wes was sporting a Confederate flag, but declined to include it in the picture. “I don’t want to be obnoxious,” he said.
RACHEL KRAUNER AND JAY REYES // INDIANA AND WASHINGTON, DC // INNOVATORS
“I didn’t think it would be this hard for him to get things done,” Reyes said, but he still supports the president’s stances on health care and immigration. The two were standing inside a port-a-potty to get a slightly better view of the festivities. Obama should “take a harder stance, be more firm on what he says” this term, according to Reyes.
RACHAEL SCHEINMAN // WASHINGTON, DC // FIRST-TIME VOTER
“I love the opportunity to get to be able to see something like this,” said Scheinman, a freshman at American University. She cast her first-ever vote for Obama last year, but hopes to see more from the President. “Some days I’m happy [with him], some days I’m not,” she said.
KELLY HEDGEPETH // MARYLAND // SECOND-CHANCER
“We tried to come for the first inauguration, and due to all the crowds, we weren’t able to actually get in,” Hedgepeth said. She told Campus Progress that the President’s support for health care reform suggests that he’s moving the country in the right direction.
BRANDON ESSRIG // PHILADELPHIA // BUSINESSMAN
“I came here to work,” said Essrig as he sold soft pretzels out of a wheelbarrow to departing attendees. He said he’s a supporter of President Obama, but wasn’t much interested in the event: “I don’t really follow politics that much,” he said. At the start of the event his sales were poor, but business picked up as hungry crowds began the long trip home.
ROBERT MANN // LOUISIANA // INSIDER
Mann was visiting DC to do research at the National Archives. “I’m a Democrat. I worked for Democrats for 25 years on Capitol Hill,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. I support Democrats for public office.” Mann witnessed the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan in 1985 and George H.W. Bush in 1989. “I never get tired of the pomp and circumstance and grandeur of it all,” he said.
TRESA STRICKLAND // SAN ANTONIO // RETURNING CIVILIAN
“I just retired from the Air Force after 24 years,” Strickland said. “Last time he was inaugurated, I was in South Korea. I decided that when he was re-elected, I wanted to be there.”
JAMES SMITH // BROOKLYN // SOCIAL WORKER
Smith made the trip down I-95 for love of country: “This is the second time that we’ve actually had a president of our descent—it’s just to really support, just to show the love that I have for the United States of America,” he said as he sold $10 T-shirts. “Not just to say by me being African-American, I’m just going with an African-American, but everything that he stands for. He’s turning the economy around.”
STEPHANIE AYLOR AND ASIA WILSON // CALIFORNIA // DC SEMESTER STUDENTS
“We were lucky enough to get tickets, and how can you not go when you have tickets to the inauguration?” Wilson said. “I agree with Obama more so than Romney on a bunch of major issues—not all issues necessarily,” she said. “I kinda support him because he is the President, and you gotta respect that,” Aylor told Campus Progress. Aylor’s take on inauguration day: “It’s cold outside.”
JOHNNY CHEUNG // CONNECTICUT // CLIMBER
“I think we have to give him another term. He has a lot of things that he has not finished,” said Cheung, who perched atop seven feet or so of wooden palettes until police politely asked him to come down. What might Obama accomplish in another four years? “I wish he can do a better job on immigration,” Cheung said.
FLORENCE FREEMAN AND FELICIA DUPRE // LOUISIANA // OPTIMISTS
“We missed the first one,” Dupre said. “We were determined that if he won again, we were going to come.” On their wish list for Obama’s second term: education reform, job growth, an end to wars, and improved relations with foreign countries. Freeman told Campus Progress she supports the President “because it’s part of my history."