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Local business owner celebrates Inauguration Day in Washington

By Staff | Jan 29, 2009

Last week, Paul McCarthy of Captiva Cruises and McCarthy’s Marina, had the opportunity to travel away from sunny Southwest Florida and brave the chilly Northern temperatures for what textbooks the world over will surely remember as a historic event – the inauguration of America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama.

“With that many people in cold conditions you would think there would be a lot of frustrations because there’s no where to park and they’re closing the streets down, but people were oblivious, they were just so happy. It was like they were just floating around,” McCarthy said.

With so many people flooding the streets of the nation’s capitol, one might think of inauguration day as more of a hectic and harried mob scene, but McCarthy compared the spirit of the record-breaking crowd of more than one million attendees to that of a family reunion.

As he encountered people on the street, McCarthy recalled, it was like discovering members of an extremely large and varied extended family.

“I’ve lived in Washington, but there was whole different feel to the city. There were just all of these people, it was really like a convention, a jamboree,” he said, evoking images of smiling faces and greeting strangers as if they were just old friends passing each other on the streets.

“And it wasn’t only the number of people, and we’re talking literally millions, but even the diversity of the people,” McCarthy added. “There were senior citizens there, people with little kids in strollers, there were young people, college kids, busloads of people were coming from different places. I mean, it was just this incredible mixture of people. Everywhere you went there were different people and it was just phenomenal. It was a celebration.”

Adding to the significance of the swearing in of America’s first black President was the fact that the day before Obama’s inauguration was a national holiday to commemorate one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most prominent and well-respected figures.

“Monday (Jan. 19), of course, was Martin Luther King Day, so that took on another connotation and that made it even more special on the eve of the inaugural,” he said. “And as President Obama said on the morning of the inaugural, 60 years ago, if his father were in Washington, D.C., he wouldn’t have been able to eat in a restaurant. And 60 years later, his son has now been sworn in as the President of the United States.”

McCarthy was also lucky enough to experience, not only the excitement of the ceremony, but one of the many inaugural balls that followed.

He attended the Eastern Inaugural Ball at Union Station, where James Taylor performed. Towards the end of the evening, Vice President and Mrs. Biden and President and First Lady Obama arrived at the Eastern Ball, completing their inaugural ball whirlwind before they returned to the White House.

“The crowd went crazy,” McCarthy said.

He then reflected on how proud he was to see the newly-inaugurated President, saying how incredible it was that he was there to participate in this event.

“This is a democratically-elected person who is now taking the reins of power because of the people in the room who voted. I mean, the whole thing was all connected. And the fact that (the Obamas) were celebrating with their supporters kind of echoes that notion that the people are part of the process and they are participating in the process and they have all the way through. They chose to become registered, they chose a candidate, they chose to vote,” McCarthy said, noting that the event was somewhat overwhelming and he felt privileged to witness this positive, visual manifestation of the process of the American government and its people.

“It was so reassuring, seeing that this is how our democratic process works.”

“The inaugural experience, I think, enabled most people to see the glass as half full,” McCarthy added, noting that he feels that President Obama’s journey to the White House, culminating in inauguration day, was not only remarkable but inspirational and that he was happy to have been able to attend the historic event.

“I think it was just the ultimate American experience.”