WASHINGTON — The presidential swearing-in ceremony is an opportunity for serious reflection and commemoration.
It’s also a chance for the politically inclined to party.
Hundreds of Iowans and guests rocked out this weekend in Washington to the thumping recorded medleys of Carly Rae Jepsen, Bon Jovi, Journey and others at the State Society of Iowa’s First in the Nation Celebration.
Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance (cough, cough, 2016). Effie Burt of Waterloo, Iowa, sang the national anthem, as well as an original song about the state.
Sponsored by companies that included ticket company Tikly and the Principal Financial Group, the gala was held at the Museum of Women in the Arts. It featured Iowa refreshments, including Sterzing’s potato chips and root beer floats made with Blue Bunny ice cream.
Templeton Rye Whiskey was offered in a back room “speakeasy.”
As the hour grew late, the dance floor heated up. A few outgoing souls even busted out their best Gangnam-style moves.
Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack showed up with his wife, Christie.
Unlike several other Cabinet members, Vilsack has opted to stick around for President Barack Obama’s second term. He said he will continue working on economic growth and opportunities in rural America.
Monday’s ceremony should remind everyone watching of the unlimited potential of America, Vilsack said.
“An African-American president is going to put his hand on a Bible that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King used, on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. What I think that suggests is the extraordinary uniqueness of America, of the American experience,” Vilsack said.
Meanwhile, the Nebraska State Society opted to mark the big event with an early Sunday brunch, sponsored by student lender Nelnet, at the National Press Club.
Retired Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman, who grew up and attended college in Nebraska, shared a behind-the-scenes perspective on inaugurations.
Jackman was responsible for the major planning of President George W. Bush’s second inauguration.
Intensive preparations go into the event, Jackman said, starting months before Election Day. The planning includes coordinating military operations, first-responders, and, of course, television feeds, he said.
Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., highlighted the peaceful transfer of power the inauguration represents. He recalled how some citizens of other countries were amazed that the controversial 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore didn’t result in violence.
“It’s still a reminder of the good parts about America in terms of democracy and the people having their choice at the polls,” Smith told The World-Herald.
Katherine Nierman, 23, of Sterling, Neb., said she plans to share photos and stories from this weekend in Washington with her pupils at Auburn High School.
The 23-year-old attends Peru State College and is a student-teacher of American history and government. She is one of eight Peru State students attending the inauguration with political science professor Sara Crook.
Nierman said party affiliations are irrelevant with this kind of celebration.
“It’s just the experience of being part of history,” she said.
Gene Crump, 65, a retired attorney who lives in Lincoln, recalled flying to Washington for the 2009 swearing-in.
The massive crowd and technical difficulties with the metal detectors prevented him from making it through the security checkpoint in time to personally see history being made.
“We saw the inauguration swearing-in from a Mexican restaurant, and it was inspirational because the entire bar got quiet when they did the Lord’s Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.
Crump expects the crowd to be smaller this time, because the election of an African-American president may seem like “old hat” to some.
But it’s still a big deal to Crump.
“It’s inspirational,” he said. “I have children now who can look up to a president who reflects them.”