Monroe County, Columbia in particular, was well-represented Monday in Washington, D.C., as Barack Obama took the oath for his second term of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
A crowd estimated at up to 1 million took in the pageantry of this special ceremony and related events — including Immaculate Conception School principal Mike Kish and his niece, Columbia native Emily (Kish) Waver, as well as a couple of longtime Monroe County Democratic Central Committee members and their families.
In fact, Kish and his niece had fairly up-close seats for the inauguration. Waver works for a financial company in New York, and her boss is friends with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) — who just so happens to be chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Waver received two tickets, and she decided to take her uncle. Kish said they sat in the front row of the section directly behind the one reserved for spouses of Congress. Among the famous people in their section, sitting behind them, were such celebrities as Katy Perry and John Mayer.
“It was just amazing. I can hardly describe it,” Kish said. “Such a highly-charged, electric, friendly atmosphere.”
“This was America coming together.”
Kish and Waver even had the chance to chat with Ron Gault after he had been inter- viewed by CNN. Gault worked for the U.S. Justice Department and later was senior advisor to former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
For Jon Lewis of Columbia, Vice-Chairman of the Monroe County Democrats, Monday marked the second straight inauguration ceremony he has attended.From left, Democratic Precinct Committeewoman Melissa Evans, Amanda Lewis, Monroe County Democrats Chairwoman Jeannine Belt and Monroe County Democrats Vice Chairman Jon Lewis of Columbia pose for a photo at the Inauguration Parade reception honoring Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on Monday in D.C. (submitted photo)
“There was obviously more exuberance in 2009, as it was very historic” with the swearing-in of America’s first black president, Lewis said. “This year, there was more of a mood of ‘Let’s keep things going.'”
Lewis and his wife, Amanda, attended this year’s inauguration along with their sons, Jonathan and Justin, and their daughter-in-law Michelle.
“It’s a peaceful continuation of democracy, something many countries don’t get to enjoy,” Lewis said. “I don’t care what party you belong to, it gives you a sense of pride in this country to see a president sworn in.
“It makes you a better American.”
Jonathan and Justin were even fortunate enough to be given tickets to the Presidential Ball on Monday evening. Jon Lewis said he attended the ball in 2009, so he figured his sons could take in this one.
Democratic Precinct 37 Commiteewoman Melissa Ev- ans and Monroe County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jeannine Belt of Columbia also attended the inauguration. Belt used the opportunity of a life-time to take in many of D.C.’s governmental and historic landmarks.
As for the inauguration itself, Belt said “it was like I had just been to a really amazing rock concert.”
In his address, President Obama called for “collective action” to confront difficult political challenges that have divided this nation.
“America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands,” the 44th president declared. “Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.”