2005 Inaugural Journal

Copyright 2005 Marilyn Ralls Johnson

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent me an invitation to George W. Bush’s second Inauguration. Should I go? I had been on their Business Advisory Council for several years and had received a Ronald Reagan Gold Medal “for recognition of my support of President Bush and the Republican Party” from them just before the election in 2004.  As one of the Honorary Chairman I received their National Leadership Award in 2003, and their Businesswoman of the Year award in 2004.  They seemed to like me, and this might be exciting!

In a moment of enthusiasm for our political process, I decided to be a witness to this important historical event. What should I wear? How would I get there? Where would I stay?  The story unfolds:

After s slow start on Amtrak's Sunset Limited out of Houston, I rode Amtrak’s Crescent from New Orleans to Washington. On Martin Luther King Day, we passed through Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia, where Coretta King was speaking at an event honoring her husband. The South was very quiet that day.

Amtrak is a comfortable, old fashioned way of getting there. There’s good food in the dining room and privacy in the comfortable sleeping compartments. And you get to see as much of the cities and countryside as you would from a car. The train stops often.

Tuscaloosa Train station

One stop was Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which my Simonton ancestors left to go to Texas before 1840. The train station looked like it was built in the middle 1800's, see the picture taken from the train.

The University of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa.  My great-grandfather was born and raised in Alabama and went to U of A shortly after the Civil War.  Many of its buildings are visible from the train. Yea Crimson Tide.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005:

I arrived at Union Station about 11 am to the bitter cold of Washington, DC. Thank goodness I had a really warm coat. Union Station is so large and beautiful that one of the Thursday night Inaugural Balls, the Freedom Ball, was held here. 25 million people a year pass through Union Station. If you have never seen it, you will enjoy this link to a 360 degree view of the entry.

Union Station has been turned into a marvelous mall full of interesting shops and restaurants.  Here I had lunch, mailed postcards to my family, bought inaugural souvenirs, found a crushable western hat, and looked through the exhibit about past Presidents.  I found it interesting that IKE, a Republican, sent the troops to Birmingham to facilitate integration of the schools, saying there are no 2nd class citizens in America.  He must have approved of the integration of the US Armed Forces which started in the late 40's.

I took a cab to the NRCC headquarters at the JW Marriott at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. very near the White House and had an interesting cab driver.  He was 84 years old and a survivor of World War II and DC traffic. He said that after WWII he couldn't even drive his cab up to the big white hotels because he was black. He admitted that things are better now. He was worried about mandatory cab driving retirement at 85.  He just wasn't ready.  He had several good driving awards and hoped they would let him continue, because his Social Security just wasn't enough.  (That's due to inflation and the really low SS taxable wage bases in the 50's and 60's.)  He admitted that the COL increases each year helped a little.  I wished him well, he was a very good driver.

NRCC didn't have my ticket package yet, so I was off to the Renaissance Hotel at 9th and New York Ave./K Street where I would be staying.  My cab driver was waived off by police stationed at the entrance to the hotel.  We could hear the beat beat beat of helicopter blades close overhead.  A policewoman suggested we try the plaza entrance, so we went around the corner. But here the police hopped out from behind columns and said no entry.  The police wouldn't tell us what was going on.  One was courteous enough to say that I could expect to get entry in about an hour and suggested that I wait at the New World Cafe across the street.  The cab driver left, and I walked to the cafe, wondering if a bomb threat had closed the hotel.

Another turnaway appeared in the cafe.  He was late for the RNC luncheon at the Renaissance.  He said that the President was speaking at the luncheon and that was why the police and helicopters were about.  Four more couples appeared with their luggage, and we all settled down for the wait, looking out the back door of the cafe to check the plaza for police every so often. 

Finally we heard the roar of the police motorcycle escort tuning up.  We hurried outside to watch the President's motorcade leave the hotel.  Six policemen came out from behind the building's columns on the plaza and ran in the opposite direction from the cafe.  It was all clear and the travelers rushed the hotel, pulling their luggage behind them.

Renaissance Flowers

Once inside the hotel lobby we were confronted with an unusual flower arrangement in red, white, and blue, with stars and flower balls hanging from the ceiling.  Large television screens were hung from the lobby ceiling also.  We were able to catch up on the news while we waited for our room assignments.

I got to my room, admired the view, and freshened up,  Then I called a couple of RSCDS contacts in the Washington area to see if there was dancing that evening.  
A scottish country dancer, Jim McCullough (202-234-6840), returned my call and offered me a ride to RSCDS class with St. Columba’s Scottish Country Dance Group in Greenbelt Community Center Dance Studio, on the route to Baltimore. I said yes! Then a suicide bomber in a van near the White House at H street held up traffic for hours causing a big traffic jam. It took Jim so long to get home in DC that he called back and canceled because he wasn’t sure we could get out of DC in time for the class (or get back at a reasonable hour). 

Instead of dancing, I took a brief walk through Chinatown, which is near the hotel, but not in the direction of the White House.  After dinner in the hotel restaurant, I returned to my room and learned that the bomb scare had ended without injury. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

AM picked up ticket packet at JW Marriott.   Had a great lunch there, an all you can eat buffet with lots of boiled shrimp.  Really started to snow.  While I waited for the snow to stop, I went shopping at nearby Filenes in the basement under the Press Building, on 14th Street near Pennsylvania Ave. It was sort of like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx . Bought 3 small designer label necklaces for $15.

When the snowfall slowed, I walked up New York Ave. to the Renaissance Hotel to rest up for A Celebration of Freedom that started at 4 pm on the Ellipse in front of the White House.  Looked out of my hotel window at this snow scene looking down New York Ave. towards the White House ( and the NRCC headquarters at the JW Marriott).  The demolition site on the left is the old convention center.

NY Avenue

The snow stopped by 4 pm but there was 2 to 4 inches of it on the ground.  I had to walk a long way down Constitution Ave. to the Ellipse security entrance - no vehicles could get near it.  I took this picture of the Washington Monument when I reached the security tents and waited to be searched before entering the Ellipse:

After I got through the security tent this is the scene on the Ellipse that greeted me:  snow, snow and more snow.  The White  House is behind the stage area:


While waiting for the event to start I took these pictures of the stage and of the DAR Museum and Constitution Hall.


Our leaders appeared with a flourish and fireworks.  George and Barbara Bush, Dick and Lynn Cheney and George and Laura Bush stood for a moment so we could see this marvelous picture of them on the jumbotrons.

  leaders jumbotron elipse

The Gatlin Brothers, Rubben Stoddard, Daniel Rodriquez, the Tejas District Color Guard, BSA, the Radio City Rockettes, and several other really good acts came on before I started to the JW Marriott for the 6 pm Congressional Reception and lite dinner.  I may have missed the aerial review and some fireworks after 6 pm.  One sight that I passed on my way back to the hotel was the President's new bullet proof parade reviewing stand.

At the NRCC Reception for Congress, they had a great video presentation of congressional highlights. Met and visited with some NRCC members, including an Australian Dr. and his wife who had lived in Houston at one time.  He said that they are living in San Antonio now and liked SA and Texas.  He recommended that I read “Born Fighting” by James Webb, a history of the Scots-Irish in America. 

Below are pictures of the Republican Elephant, me at NRCC podium, and a flag and flower arrangement display. We took turns amusing ourselves by taking pictures of each other at the podium.  I stayed at the reception until about 9 pm. The Balls for the big contributors (over $100,000) including the Black Tie and Boots Ball were held tonight.

  MJ NRCC Congressional Reception  Marriott flowers


Thursday, January 20, 2005

The big day. VERY COLD. Stayed in my hotel to hear the TV coverage of the events until 11 am. I found out what Laura Bush and her daughters would wear to the Inaugural Balls tonight, took a tour of the White House including the chocolate vault, and watched other interesting background stories about the Inauguration.

My gold invitation to the Inauguration would have put me standing up far away from the Capital watching a jumbotron screen out in the cold. So I mostly walked from my hotel to the JW Marriott Hotel NRCC Hospitality Room to watch Bush’s swearing in and speech inside on large tv screens where it was warm.  The Inauguration is probably the most photographed event of the year, so I refer you to the professional photographers. Click here to view the official pictures of the Inauguration.

The next link is to the White House coverage of THE BIG EVENT.  Click here to read, view, and hear the full Inaugural Address.

Speech surprise - Bush vowed to “protect the minorities”. A statistical evaluation of the population might reveal that in some areas white folks are the minority. Also the President hopes to free all countries in the world from tyranny, so that the US can remain free. The next four years should reveal the method(s) he plans to use to achieve Democracy for everyone in the world.

While Bush had lunch at the Capital (click here for a 360 degree view of the Capital’s Statuary Hall), I ate a hearty meal with my NRCC friends at the Marriott.  I especially enjoyed the table decorations of carved melons and cheeses representing eagles, the presidential seal, elephants, birds and Bush. After lunch I went out into the cold, overcast day to find my seat for the parade.

Outside the hotel, 14th Street was filled with demonstrators. One yelled at me to put on my KKK hood. (He obviously didn't know that President Lincoln was a Republican.) They looked strange enough to make interesting pictures. Pierced and tattooed bodies were everywhere.  But I was in a hurry to get in line for the the parade, and didn't take any pictures of them or their signs.  I looked pretty plain, black coat, slacks and boots, and they didn’t say much to me as I walked through them to the New York Ave. security gate. There were more demonstrators along the line of waiting spectators, and a woman behind me in a long fur coat got into a really stupid verbal exchange with them.

One of the demonstrators kept yelling that the security searches were a violation of our rights, but we were all there voluntarily knowing that there would be a search, which implies that we consented to the search. I felt safer knowing that no one in the crowd was carrying a bomb or a gun. The searches may have cut down on the type of crimes associated with large gatherings, like assault with deadly weapons, hold-ups and kidnapings.

My front row seat was on Pennsylvania Ave. south of 15th street across from the Treasury Building and just around the corner from the President's reviewing stand. Security was really intense, but everyone around me was cheerful and enthusiastic. After a long wait the parade came by with DC police on motorcycles first, then Minute Men, Revolutionary War Drum and Fife, Congressmen in cars, including Trent Lott and Tom DeLay,


 and then the President and Laura Bush drove by me in a new, heavily armored, limo while the Army saluted him:


The spectators around the next corner gave out really big cheers when the President and First Lady stepped out of the limo to walk the last block up Penn Ave. to the reviewing stand.  The President's car was followed by mounted police and an ambulance. Here are some of my pictures of the parade highlights.

University of Texas Band flags University of Texas marching band flag unit

Canine Corps Canine Corps

New York Police Department Pipe and Drum  New York Police Department Pipe and Drum

New York Fire Department Drums   New York Fire Department Pipers New York Fire Department Pipe and Drum

Youngest ParadersYoungest paraders

Southern Belles on Parade

Culver Academy Cadets with Flags

Culver Academy Equestrians

State of Texas Float and Crawford HS Pirate Band

  State of Wyoming Float

Texas A & M Corps, one of three units

Civil War Union Soldiers

Mounted Hussars? (really weird hats)

Colorful flags were used by bands to add pizzazz.  Here are a few examples:


Before the 2+ hour long  parade ended I got cold thru and thru and walked up New York Ave. to the Renaissance Hotel to warm up and get ready for the Texas Wyoming Ball. 

What did I like best about the parade?  The Minute Men.  At least four of my ancestors were patriots who risked their lives to found this great country.

The Texas Wyoming Ball was held in the new Convention Center two blocks north of my hotel at 9th and New York Ave./K Street, but because of security measures, I had to walk several blocks to the entrance to the Ball at 6th and New York Ave. Everyone had to pass through a security search. Six balls were held in the new Conference Center that night.  About 50,000 people attended the one unofficial and 9 official balls visited by the President and First Lady this night.

The media said that Dick and Lynn Cheney appeared at the Texas Wyoming ball shortly after 7 pm. I think that most of the attendees including me were still standing out in the cold waiting to be checked by security. (The ballroom doors opened at 5:30 pm and the Ball started at 7 pm.)  Actually we weren't very cold outside, because it's really warm in a crowd of people packed together.  Several scantly clad women didn't wear coats and many wore barefoot high heeled sandals for their long walk and stand in the freezing snow. 

When I finally arrived at the ballroom, the first thing I noticed was a sign proclaiming that the room could hold over 11,000 people. That's a lot of people in one room, and I automatically looked for exits, just in case....

The food was good and there were three entertainment stages and dance floors set up. The entertainment stages were well lit, but the room was so dark that it was impossible to get good pictures. Tyrone "Super T" Smith, Dance Express, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Beatlemania Live were scheduled for these stages.  We were Celebrating Feedom and Honoring Service on all stages.


Their own beautifully decorated stage with hundreds of roses awaited President and Laura Bush.

Then the band played Hail To The Chief.  The Presidential couple arrived, greeted us, and danced for us while the crowd cheered. Both seemed to be enjoying the festivities enormously.  I was too far away to get a good picture of the real people, and these pictures from the Jumbotron were on an angle.

Bushes at ballBushes Dance

I had good time too. Met a lot of very nice people, many of them from Houston. One young man had attended Episcopal High School, which is about 3 blocks from my home.  I was told that some of the Harris County Republicans had chartered a jet to get to and from the Inauguration.

A lady passing by took this picture of me by a classic floral arrangement.

You wouldn’t believe how beautiful the ladies dresses and accessories were. A woman ascending on the escalator in front of me had a light blue/green matte satin dress with a full two foot train of ruffles cascading from her waist. The dress was trimmed with gorgeous matching cloth roses. There were full ball skirts with hoops, many dresses with trains, sparkling jewels galore, hundreds of strapless gowns, and many full length mink and sable fur coats.  These pictures are proofs from Reflections, the official photographer of the event:

After being lavishly entertained and fed, I walked two blocks in the left-over snow to my hotel.  A
t the hotel someone had left a plate of goodies for me - a 5" high chocolate Cowboy boot filled with a cream filling, a strawberry dipped in chocolate with a black bow tie drawn in icing, and a red, white and blue banner in white chocolate.  It was so cute I should have taken a picture of it.  I can't eat chocolate, so I left this treat for the maid instead of tip.

Friday morning I returned on Continental non-stop from BWI. Just the day before, Continental announced they were millions in the hole. What a shame they are losing money.  It's a real spiffy, well maintained air fleet.  The flight to Houston was uneventful, and I was glad to get home quickly on the newly remodeled Highway 59.

My overall impression - SPECTACULAR!