From Near and Far, Diverse Crowd Gathers for Inaugural
The crowd assembled for the second inauguration of President Bush may not look exactly like America. But it was diverse in its own way.
John Money, a 19-year-old sophomore at the Naval Academy, came to the swearing-in ceremony decked out in his dress whites. While Money said that he was too young to be able to relate to much of what the president was doing, he added that Bush is “my commander in chief. I’ve got to support him.” Money also said he appreciated that the president had raised military pay.
Elsewhere on the Capitol grounds were two couples — the wives bedecked in fur to guard against the cold — one from red-state Texas and the other from blue Washington state.
“We don’t get to wear our fur coats down there very often,” said Kim Mayer, a Dallas attorney who sported a full length mink coat and matching hat as she waited in line to pass through security.
She and her husband, she said, came to Washington for the inauguration because, in his words, it was “probably the last time a Texan would be inaugurated in our lifetime.” He added with a smile, “Until I run.”
Terree Schmidt and Andrew Kingston, the couple from Washington, were well-heeled Democrats from Seattle. They sat stoically, Starbucks cups in hand.
“If a president is elected, we get behind him,” said Schmidt. She said it was nice to wear her dyed-orange fur hat. “In Washington state if you wear fur, you get vilified,” she said.
The nation’s oldest Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, John Finn, was seated in a section with other past honorees. Finn, 95, served in the Navy from 1926 to 1947 and was given the honor, he said, for “fighting the Japs” in World War II. He is the only living recipient of the medal to have the date of Dec. 7, 1941 — the day of the Pearl Harbor attacks — on his citation.
Finn has attended prior inaugurations, including those of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy (his wife was “in love with” the latter, he says). Finn is sporting cowboy boots but makes it clear that’s just his style — not a reflection of President Bush’s tastes. “I’ve been wearing them for the last 47 years,” he said.
Zdenka Gast — one of only 15 women in the country to be a structural steel bridge erector, she says — raised money for the president but “is not in the big leagues or a pioneer.” She’s also a longtime friend and supporter of Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), who she’s known since the current chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee was an Erie County legislator. A member of New York’s Conservative Party, she adds that she is liberal on women’s issues.
Seated elsewhere was Metropolitan Herman, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, in full priestly attire, including a klobuk headdress. Herman was sitting with the church chancellor Father Robert Kondratick.
“You always have to support the president no matter who it is,” he said. Still, he added, moral values are important to him, including President Bush’s opposition to abortion.
Some deep-pocketed supporters of the Republican Party enjoyed a bracing day in the chilly sunshine.
Being a member of the high-dollar Team 100 had its perks for Nancy Masterson of Chicago. For a level of contribution she would not disclose, the organization “took care of us,” including seated tickets close to the podium, tickets to a candlelight dinner, tickets to the Freedom Ball, and, earlier last year, access to the Republican National Convention. She said she was having a “lovely time.”
On a seated platform in front of the Marine Band — some of the best seated tickets in the house — sat ambassadorial spouses. The wife of the ambassador of Ghana said she was used to the cold because they had previously been posted in Switzerland.
Youngsters also braved the cold to view a bit of history. Ashlynne Lanne of Baltimore is 10. Dressed in a black fur coat, she was huddled next to her father, who works at the Government Printing Office.
“This was a late Christmas present he just told me about. It’s exciting!” she said.
She is asked, “Are you glad to be here?”
“Yes and No,” she responds. “Yes because I got out of school, no because it’s so cold.”