President Obama delivers second inaugural address

By Alysa Landry
Special to the Times

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 24, 2013

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P resident Barack Obama on Monday pledged to continue working to dissolve inequalities and return to each American the unalienable rights promised in the Constitution of the United States.

During his second inaugural address, Obama reminded Americans that, "what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.

"What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago," he said. "Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing."

Navajo President Ben Shelly, Vice President Rex Lee Jim and five Council delegates attended the inauguration. Members of the Navajo Nation Band were nearby, waiting to participate in the inaugural parade.

The White House is estimating at least 1 million Americans were in the District of Columbia on Monday. Roads surrounding the White House and the National Mall were closed to traffic. Americans dressed to ward off the winter cold swarmed the capital city on foot.

Giant television screens towered over the National Mall, allowing spectators to watch as Obama took the oath of office just before noon then gave his stirring inaugural speech.

"America's possibilities are limitless," Obama said, while also calling attention to a "growing many (who) barely make it."

"We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own," he said.

Although he did not specifically mention American Indians in his inaugural speech, Obama in December kept his promise to tribes by hosting his fourth White House Tribal Nations Conference. American Indians in Washington during inauguration weekend celebrated the nation's first black president as someone who has done more for tribes than any other.

"I'm very much looking forward to working with Obama," Shelly said during a Sunday night reception hosted by the Navajo Nation Washington Office. "This is our second time around, the second term. When I get a chance to sit down with the president, I have some things to talk to him about."

Among those priorities, Shelly said, is the Nation's desire to be a "frontrunner in energy independence."

Following his speech, Obama led the inaugural parade, which snaked along a 1.5-mile route along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol building to the White House. Tens of thousands of spectators filled bleachers that lined the route.

It was one of the biggest – and most prestigious – audiences the Navajo Nation Band has ever had.

"It was a bit cold and everyone was nervous," Darwyn Jackson, band director, said during a phone interview Tuesday. "But once we made that final turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue, we knew we were making history."

About 80 band members made the journey from the Navajo Nation to march in the parade, Jackson said. The parade included entries from across the country, hand-selected by the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

After walking the route himself, Obama took his place at the Presidential Reviewing Stand, where he waved and cheered for about 8,800 people participating in the parade, including bands, dancers, celebrity musicians and children on unicycles.

"Some of us got the chance to see Obama," said Valerie Harrison, the band's administrative coordinator and assistant band director. "Some of us saw him wave at us."

Band members did their fair share of waving, Harrison said. Between songs, musicians interacted with the crowd.

Harrison, who plays the clarinet, has been with the band for 37 consecutive years. The inaugural parade brought former band members out of retirement for a chance to march in Washington, she said.

"It was all very exciting," she said. "We had new band members playing and we had old members who came back to play, just for this. I was proud of everyone. We did a pretty good job."

Access to the parade was by ticket only, and security was tight. Although people stood in line for hours to get into the parade, some of the bleachers were empty by the time the Navajo Nation Band marched past, Harrison said.

"We didn't have as big of a crowd as we thought once we got onto the parade route," she said. "There were some bleachers where there were hardly any people. I guess people watched Obama walk past then they went home."

The Navajo Nation Band's day started long before the 2:30 p.m. parade. Band members arrived early at the Pentagon to go through the first of many security checks.

"We were joking that we had to wait five or six hours for a one-hour parade," Jackson said.

Jackson hopes the exposure in Washington opens the doors for more band performances.

"This gave us global exposure," he said. "We're hoping for more appearances, like in the Rose Parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade."

This was the third time in six months the band has performed for large crowds.

The band participated in the Freedom Days parade in Provo, Utah, in July, for a crowd of about 300,000 people and then invited to the Sun Bowl Parade on Thanksgiving in El Paso, Texas, where it performed for another crowd of 300,000, according to Jackson.

Monday's performance marked the second time the Navajo Nation Band was invited to participate in an inaugural parade. It performed in 1973 for the inauguration of President Richard Nixon.

"That was 40 years ago," Shelly said Sunday. "I'm really happy for the band members who are performing this year."

Although the weather was chilly and the streets were crowded, Jackson said the trip was worth it for the one hour band members performed while marching on the historic parade route.

"The experience was breath-taking," he said. "We were cold and getting blisters, but back home, our friends, our families, our grandparents told us they were glued to the TV."

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