While the majority of people experienced President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on television, a select group of UC Berkeley students were able to experience it in the flesh.
Several students currently in Washington, D.C., as part of the UC Berkeley Washington Program, stood among the approximately 1 million people who braved the biting cold to attend the ceremony on Monday.
One UCDC student, Lindsay Stein, a junior double majoring in media studies and sociology, said she was excited to have the opportunity but admitted the day was exhausting.
“We woke up at 5:30 in order to make it through two hours of freezing outdoor security and get semi-good spots near the Capitol,” Stein said in an email. “The crowds were wild and pushy, and for the first time I truly understood the phrase ‘mob mentality.’”
Stein said that it was all worth it because, unlike the viewers at home, she could experience firsthand the “fired up, ready to go” chants, hear the musical performers live and watch the president be sworn in for another four years in office.
Another UCDC student, Brandon Cota, a fifth-year senior majoring in Spanish and Portuguese literature, said that he was considering not going but knew that he could not miss such an opportunity.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Cota said. “I was amazed by Obama’s speech, which was very progressive. For the first time in an inaugural address, a president made mention of LGBT rights, which has been a big concern for many.”
Cota said he was impressed by Obama’s candor and his inclusion of current events, such as the Newtown shootings and gun control laws, in the inaugural address.
Though it was exhausting, Cota said he enjoyed his experience at the inauguration.
Not all of the UCDC students shared that sentiment, however.
Alana Baum, a junior majoring in peace and conflict studies, described her experienced in an op-ed for OtherWords, a syndicated political journalism project run by the Institute for Policy Studies.
“Having cast my first-ever vote in a presidential election, I was excited to witness my candidate begin his second term,” she said. “But for me and many others, the day was a bit of a letdown.”
Baum was referring to disruptions caused by an anti-abortion protester, who she said climbed a tree and remained there for the duration of the ceremony, yelling for hours on end and disturbing her ability to hear the speeches properly.
Pooja Mhatre is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected].