The Inauguration of President Barack Obama — Letter Sent to Teacher in 2009

By Elise Hong (SMHS ‘21)

In my summer school US History class, I learned about the first inauguration of President Barack Obama. In this regard I specifically learned that:

  • This inauguration took place on January 20, 2009 and marked the commencement of the first four-year term of Barack Obama as President and Joe Biden as Vice President.

After I had learned what appears above, my teacher encouraged me to write a 750–1000 word Historical Fiction Letter, with this letter to be written from the perspective of someone who had attended Obama’s 2009 inauguration and who was between the age of 16–25 at the time. He also encourged me to address my letter to a Mr. Joe Titan, a fictional US History teacher at the students’ school.

In the Historical Fiction Letter appearing below, I assume that I was a 16-year-old member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, “an organization that consists of a young women’s touring ensemble.”

I also assume that I was writing my letter from a Washington D.C. Hotel room on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, two hours after President Barack Obama was sworn into office and three hours after I (and the other members of the S.F. Girls Chorus) had sung “American the Beautiful” and “Hymn to Freedom” to those waiting for the swearing in ceremony to begin.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dear Mr. Titan:

This is Elise Hong, a student in your 4th period U.S History class. I’m writing today from Washington D.C. after having just performed with the San Francisco Girls’ Choir at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. We were asked to sing before the swearing in, and stayed for the rest of the ceremony.

I’m writing from my Washington Hilton Hotel Room. It’s about 4:00 PM right now, and I just came back from lunch at a place called the Yardhouse. I am now writing you to tell you about the exciting morning I just had. It all began with an invitation to perform at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony a few months ago.

In June of 2008, my chorus director received an invitation to perform at the President’s Inaugural Ceremony, and of course, overjoyed, we accepted. Now, after the whole ceremony, I am still in awe over everything that occurred, from President Obama’s Inaugural Address to the seemingly millions of people in the crowd.

I began the morning with a quick breakfast in the hotel, before leaving at 7:00 AM. Outside it was still pitch black, only the street and building lights shining through the dark. Everyone was bundled up with beanies pulled down over their ears. It was about 19 degrees, but the wind made it feel much colder. We rode down Connecticut Avenue to Capitol Hill, facing the growing crowd.

It wasn’t until 11:30 that the ceremony officially began, with my chorus having performed about a half hour earlier. I was so nervous for our performance, but once we finished, I felt my anxiety fade away and focused on the events unfolding in front of me. I can’t believe how close we were to the president and all the famous guests. All of us were placed to the furthest left side of the platform. President Bush accompanied by Vice President Cheney entered first, in tune to the marine band playing “Hail to the Chief.” Then entered Vice President Joe Biden with President Obama a few steps behind. I felt overwhelmingly starstruck in the presence of these brilliant leaders, especially after Aretha Franklin performed her version of “My Country Tis of Thee.”

Finally, at around 12:05 PM, resident Obama took his oath with an impressive 21-gun salute following. Then, his inaugural address.

Obama is known for being one of the best orators, and after today, I understand why. He began his speech with an outline of all the problems the United States are facing: the Afghanistan War, the recession of the economy, and the expensive healthcare plans. However, after the slightly depressing note, he lifts everyone’s spirit with the promise that although these problems may not be easily met, “know this, America — they will be met.” Of course, this line is met with tremendous applause, instilling inspiration into every person in the crowd.

He continued to speak of his hope for the nation and the potential greatness our country carries. Speaking with such conviction, Obama praised the men and women that worked hard to start this country and the generations that worked hard to carry “us up the long-rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.” He animatedly conveyed the appreciation we should have for the past generations that built this country so that we could live in the progressive and thriving nation it is today.

Then, he spoke about the future. He spoke about the potential our nation has, proclaiming it to be the most powerful, prosperous nation on the Earth. He promised to take action to further progress the United States, whether it is in the economy or in science and technology.

There was confidence and optimism integrated throughout his speech, giving no doubt to the audience of his capabilities. I felt inspired by everything, giving me goosebumps because of the power and conviction he spoke with. The speech ended up to be a little more than 20 minutes long, yet it did not drag on. Instead, it felt as though his words were inspiring the whole nation, including the virtual audience. The response that followed afterwards was enormous, millions of glove and mitten-covered hands applauding nonstop for centuries.

After the ceremony ended, a little after half an hour past noon, my choir and I left for lunch, chatting about the famous people we had seen and the powerful speech we had just witnessed. We were walking through the streets on our way to lunch, hearing everyone around us still talking about the Inaugural Ceremony. As I passed by some people, I heard an interesting fact: More people were in attendance of Obama’s inaugural address than any other president, whether it was online, through the television, or physically present. Being the first African-American president, Obama has made history, and I am so glad to have been witness to this historical moment.

I hope you enjoyed the recounting of my morning, and felt as inspired as I was during the ceremony. I’ll be back in a few days, so I will be sure to catch up on all the assignments I have missed while out of town.

Looking forward to being back in class.
Elise

SOURCES

“Barack Obama’s First Inauguration Revisited.” America Magazine, 22 Jan. 2017, Accessed 11 June 2019.

Barack Obama Is Inaugurated.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2 Jan. 2018, Accessed 11 June 2019.

First Inauguration of Barack Obama.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 May 2019, Accessed 12 June 2019.

Historic Moment as Obama Sworn In.” BBC News, BBC, 20 Jan. 2009, Accessed 12 June 2019.

Hulse, Carl. “Obama Is Sworn In as the 44th President.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2009, Accessed 12 June 2019.

Jan. 20, 2009: Inaugural Ceremonies for Barack Obama.YouTube, 29 Dec. 2012, Accessed 10 June 2019.

Seelye, Katharine Q. “Live Blog: The Inauguration of Barack Obama.The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2009, Accessed 12 June 2019.

Whitaker, Morgan. “Here’s What Barack Obama Said in His First Inauguration Speech.” AOL.com, AOL, 23 Feb. 2017, Accessed 11 June 2019.

ACADEMIC HONESTY STATEMENT

I declare that this work is my own work and that I have correctly acknowledged the work of others. I furthermore declare that this work is in accordance with SMHS Academic Honesty Policy and its guidance on good academic conduct and how to avoid plagiarism and other assessment irregularities.

  • Elise Hong

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Peter Paccone

High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.