A (An?) Historic Event

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I’ve been invited to five Presidential Inaugurations, but have never been to one – too much glitz for my tastes.

Generally, I have tried to ignore this quadrennial ritual, but this year that was impossible. One would have to be comatose to have avoided the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. One reason the inauguration seemed omnipresent was the $150 million or so spent on the event – three times the second most expensive inaugural. (Perhaps these festivities – along with the Obamas hiring Santa Monica designer Michael S. Smith to decorate the White House living area — were a preamble to the Obama Stimulus package.)

Another reason this inauguration is different is that those who monopolize our eyeballs – Hollywood stars, mainstream media – seem to feel a pride of authorship, if not ownership of the Obama candidacy, so the inaugural was as much their party as the President’s.

That explains the reason the nation’s largest cable carrier created a special “all-Obama channel” for the inauguration. That explains why the Washington Post hired hundreds of people to hawk more than 1.5 million additional copies of the newspaper, and why newspapers in the other major cities followed suit. . That explains why CNN created software which let viewers comment and otherwise “social-network” on Facebook directly from their video players while watching the inauguration, and why MSNBC helped arrange free viewing parties at movie theaters in Stamford and a score of cities and in hundreds of Starbucks on both coasts. That explains why USA Today and other publications created special commemorative editions to sell at a premium – along DVDs, T-shirts, mugs, and other tchotchkes. (Of course, Greenwich Time managed to mar the beautiful cover photo with an advertizing sticker.)

But undeniably this inauguration was different because it marked a historic moment for this great country. (Follow link to see why “a historic” is preferred to “an historic.”) Remarkably, in the bicentennial year of the birth of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, America’s first African-American took the oath of office as our nation’s 44th President. So things around America were done differently for this inauguration than for all past inaugurals.

Because it was historic my son’s public university suspended classes during the inaugural. Because it was historic, my daughters’ private school abandoned their no-television in school rule and broadcast the ceremony during lunch. Because it was historic, UConn Stamford broadcast the event. Because it was historic, NYC school teachers were required to accompany their classes to locations where they could watch the swearing-in (even though some teachers didn’t want to watch and felt it was a violation of their rights to be forced to watch).

Because it was historic, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei had the Greenwich Library and the Town Hall Meeting Room opened to the public to watch the event. Because it was historic, the Fox News Channel broadcast their coverage on large screens at New York’s Times Square, and the Associated Press found a way to let those at work pick which of the seven live anchored and raw feeds from around Washington to watch on their computers.

Why does all this matter?

These special plans in response to this historic event should serve as a blueprint for another historic inaugural I hope to see in my lifetime (one I might just attend) – the inauguration of our first woman President. It will be a blueprint, unless of course, that first woman President is my choice, Sarah Palin, in which case these plans probably won’t be emulated and this list will serve as an indictment of the hypocrisy of the those “enlightened elite” who believe only they know what is historic.

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