WASHINGTON — For the past few election cycles, Oklahoma has been branded among the reddest states in the nation. With not a single county tilting in favor of Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, the state reinforced that brand.
However, as President Obama started his second term with his presidential inauguration Monday, several Oklahomans could be found throughout the nation’s Capitol looking forward to the festivities and what they mean for the future.
“It’s a great feeling to be here,” said State Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. “It’s the second Inauguration that I’ve been to in my life. I came to the first Obama inauguration and, of course, it was an electric feeling. This inauguration is an excellent feeling because there were so many doubters. To see him pull it out in such a big way, it shows people that the United States is changing in a way.”
Obama was sworn in as president Sunday in a private ceremony with just his family and a few staff members on hand. But Monday was the public’s chance to witness the event as an estimated 800,000 people filled the Washington Mall on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. By most accounts, that is a million less than the number who came out in force in 2009.
The lower numbers didn’t dampen the excitement surrounding the inauguration. Clay Ward, who is a native of Broken Bow, has lived in Washington, D.C., since 2000 and works for the Department of Homeland Security. He attended the 2009 inauguration.
“I think the Oklahomans that are here are here to experience a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Ward said. “It’s not going to be as large as it was four years ago, but I think it’s large enough.”
Oklahoman Kyle Ensley attended his first presidential inauguration. Even though he has worked in Washington over the past year at the Bureau of International Information Programs, he was looking forward to taking in the festivities with fellow Oklahomans.
“This is my first inauguration to ever attend,” Ensley said. “I’m really excited just to see what it is all about. I think it’s a great opportunity for native Oklahomans who live in D.C. or people from Oklahoma to come and celebrate a great American tradition. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the inauguration than with my fellow Oklahomans.”
Along with seeing Obama sworn in, those in attendance and watching on television were able to see the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Beyonce belt out a rendition of the National Anthem, and Myrlie Evers-Williams become the first female to ever give the invocation at an inauguration.
Obama also gave the people a preview of what he wants to accomplish in his next four years during his inauguration speech.
“We are made for this moment and we will seize it,” the president said. “So long as we seize it together. For we the people understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.”
For Shelton, that is one of the reasons he wanted to be at the inauguration for a second time.
“It’s an equally proud feeling that I have to see President Obama in this office,” Shelton said. “I think it’s important as a black legislator in the state of Oklahoma, it’s important to see African Americans in those kinds of positions to give hope to our younger generation that is coming up behind us. I think it’s so powerful.”