Marine, minister, others to witness inauguration
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some are veterans of the ceremony, and others are first-timers, but area residents are making a good showing at President Barack Obama's second inauguration on Monday.
Officials are expecting a steep drop in attendance from his 2009 inauguration, but locals who made the trip say they are still very excited to witness Monday's ceremony and parade first-hand.
Marine Corps Master Sergeant and clarinetist John Mula, a Monticello native, will be among those who are closest to the action. As a member of the United States Marine Band, Mula will be attending his fourth consecutive presidential inauguration — his primary mission being to entertain the president himself.
"The Marine Band's been doing this since Thomas Jefferson's inauguration," Mula said. "We always have a place on the platform."
Mula graduated from the University of Illinois in 1985 with a degree in music. He later earned a doctorate in music from Florida State University, and he has been playing in the band since 1996.
But to be a part of a tradition dating back to 1801 is huge, he said.
"It's amazing," Mula said. "You're in something that's bigger than you. You feel like you're part of a historic event, and that guides you in everything you do."
The Illinois State Police will be participating, too. The agency is among 90 law enforcement groups from across the country that have been asked to assist the Secret Service and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department with security during the ceremony, according to the state police.
The Illinois State Police has sent 40 troopers to Washington, and those officers will be deputized as Deputy U.S. Marshals for Monday's events.
Lekevie Johnson, the pastor at Champaign's Jericho Missionary Baptist Church, was invited by newly-elected U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, to attend. He called it "phenomenal."
"Words are not appropriate to describe the inner feeling and exuberance and excitement that I have," Johnson said.
He said he's looking forward to bringing some positive messages of inspiration back to Champaign.
"The most important thing I want to bring back is inspiration to young people in our community so that they can understand we have limitless possibilities to be successful," Johnson said.
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, also with tickets furnished by Davis, will be seeing his first presidential inauguration on Monday.
"It's fantastic," he said from Washington on Sunday evening. "It was actually warm today, and I ran into several people from Champaign, just walking around watching."
He said it is hard to tell what he is most looking forward to, but "just taking it in and being a part of it," has been very enjoyable to start. On Sunday, he said he especially noticed the diversity of the people who have come to the capital city.
"You get this really true sense of America," Gerard said.
Obama's second term officially began on Sunday when he took the oath of office during a much less grandiose ceremony in the White House. Keeping with tradition, the public ceremony was moved back to today since the Constitutional inauguration day, Jan. 20, fell on Sunday.
And, lacking the historical gravity of Obama's first inauguration in 2009, officials think attendance might drop by as much as 1 million. It was estimated that 1.8 million people attended Obama's first inauguration.
Carly McCrory, communications director for the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, was one of those 1.8 million in 2009, and she will be among the crowd again in 2013. She called the 2009 inauguration "amazing and crazy and millions of people all around."
"It was just such a historical and amazing experience," McCrory said.
This time, it's much calmer, she said. But one of the positives is that more places are open. She spent Sunday taking in the sights of Washington.
Champaign City Council member Tom Bruno was a participant in the 2009 inauguration parade as a member of the The World Famous Lawn Rangers of Amazing Arcola, a lawn-mowing and broom-twirling troupe.
"The first one, I listened to the oath of office on a transistor radio in the back of a school bus, shivering," Bruno said.
The Lawn Rangers will not be in the parade this year.
"It's one and done for us," Bruno said.
But there's an upside: He's got better seats this time.
"Because of our participation in the parade, we missed a lot of the spectator part of it," Bruno said. "And we're going back as spectators to recreate the event in our minds."