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The Inauguration

January 26, 2009 | 3 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
On Tuesday my colleague was fortunate to attend the inauguration of our 44th President of these United States. She believes that as she was departing the area near the Capitol when the ceremony ended, you walked right by her. She swears it was indeed you but forgot to look for your red shoes.

Just wondering...

Debbie E.
WHRV-FM, Norfolk, VA


It could've been me, Debbie, since I was there, or it could've been some other tall person with glasses. No red shoes: those are for work — I wore black ones. I was not as bundled up as most — just a black wool overcoat and a scarf that I'd bought from a vendor. My wife was with me and, after the ceremony, the mayor of St. Paul Chris Coleman and his wife Connie who we ran into and my friend Sydney Goldstein and her husband Chuck Breyer and their daughter Kate, all from San Francisco. Small world. We were all walking out together, inching along in the crowd, when the Marine helicopter went overhead bearing the Former Occupant and there was the sort of spontaneous roar of jubilation such as I've never heard before. It was so natural and spontaneous that you couldn't call it cruel — a weary people encouraged by the departure of a disastrous man. Chuck is a federal judge in S.F. and in the buoyant mood of the moment he invited us to join them for lunch at the Supreme Court where his older brother works. It was a real lesson in the Art of Negotiation to see this elegant San Franciscan talk us through security at the Court and into its marbly vastness and down the hall to his brother's chambers which — small world — turned out to be the very chambers once occupied by Justice Blackmun whom I had visited there twenty years ago. Chuck built a fire in the fireplace and we sat down and recovered from the chill and then ambled down to the dining room where, years before, Justice Blackmun had held a reception for A Prairie Home Companion, and where now, a hundred relatives of Justices were eating lunch and also Justice Clarence Thomas who was much more amiable than his public image suggests and who recalled me singing the Whiffenpoof Song at Justice Blackmun's funeral. An odd sweet ending to a beautiful day. It began with a 5:30 a.m. train ride and two hours standing in line in the cold and then the thrill of the man taking the oath — when he said, "so help me, God" I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye — and then, by sheer chance, a visit to the Inner Sanctum. Amazing city, Washington. From the Court I went to the Chicago Tribune bureau on F Street and wrote my column, and then we caught a train to New York from which I'd fly to Columbus the next day, and Seattle on Thursday, and Duluth on Friday. That was my week, Debbie. Never was another like it.


You rock, GK! Thank you for sharing your experiences of this great day with the rest of us.

Thanks for sharing your memories of such a special day. In London, I was glued to the TV from 4.30pm (we are 5 hours ahead, I think) only to have my mother ring me from the Canary Islands just at the moment when the new president was being sworn in. I loved all the vox pop moments from the crowd, members of the public explaining why they had come so far to risk hypothermia, all very inspirational.

Wow, GK, that really was some day. At my public radio and TV station where I work, we gathered together and watched the inauguration in our lobby. It was very communal, but it was nice to live the experience vicariously through you. Thanks for sharing!

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