WASHINGTON – On the stage in front of the Capitol, President Obama on Monday urged action on key issues that will determine the future of the country.
On the National Mall, meanwhile, members of the crowd gathered for the inauguration ceremony were dealing with more immediate, practical matters, like staying warm.
Selling hand warmers
Standing on the corner of 7th and D streets, Joshua Cardwell and Malcolm Mattison held signs and yelled, “Hand warmers for sale.”
The Howard University seniors attended the second inauguration of President Barack Obama for two reasons: to see history in the making, and to make a little money for school.
As freshmen, Cardwell and Mattison sold the warmers during the first inauguration and made about $500.
Cardwell, 22, originally from Detroit, said this time they were hoping to triple their profits. Needing about $2,000 to pay for school, Cardwell was eager to move some warmers.
But by 8 a.m., they noticed the weather was warmer than four years ago. Sales were low and the pair slashed their prices from one hand warmer for $5, to two for $5.
A little confusion
Anywhere you find Lorraine Barnes, you’ll also find her 2-year-old granddaughter, Kai Silungwe. The presidential inauguration was no exception.
Despite the large crowds and cold weather, Barnes pushed her stroller toward the National Mall. Kai was along for the ride, wrapped in pink blankets.
“This day is important, and it’s important that she knows she came to the swearing in of the first African American president,” Barnes said. “There are always blankets and things we can use to make sure she is warm.”
Kai may not always recognize President Obama; Barnes said her granddaughter knows who Martin Luther King Jr. is, and because of that knowledge Barnes is sure Kai will remember this day for the rest of her life. “Even if she thinks Obama is MLK,” Barnes said.
Dressing up as Barney
In a bright purple and green dinosaur suit, Marcia Desouza watched President Barack Obama officially begin his second term.
Desouza was dressed as Barney, the T-rex from the Public Broadcasting Service’s “Barney and Friends.” Usually, the costume is reserved for Halloween. But on Monday, the costume represented so much more than the “clean up” or “I love you” songs. Barney is why Desouza, 31, voted for Obama.
“If Romney would have won, then people who work for PBS would be unemployed eventually,” she said, recalling when Republican Mitt Romney said he would reduce spending by slashing PBS funds.
Desouza’s son, Austin, 13, was with her, but he wasn’t wearing a costume. “He knows the First Amendment by memory,” Desouza said. “He needs to start paying attention to political issues at a young age.”
Two for one
“It all came together last minute,” Yolanda Griggs-Jones said about deciding to attend the inauguration.
Griggs-Jones was wrapped in a thermal blanket she bought in Hyattsville, Md., where she and her daughter, Melissa Phillips, were staying with a friend. The two Los Angeles natives bought tickets to Washington a couple of weeks ago, deciding they couldn’t miss the big day.
“It’s like a two-for-one deal,” Griggs-Jones, 54, said. “It’s Martin Luther King [Jr.] day and the last time Obama will be inaugurated.”
For Griggs-Jones, Obama’s health reform plan is what motivated her to vote for him again. The 25-year-old Phillips, though not happy about some of the student loan adjustments made since Obama took office, said she supported the president because she understands tough decisions have to be made.
The mother and daughter said they were happy to share the moment.