When President Barack Obama gave his inaugural address on Monday, there were more than 800,000 in attendance. That crowd of wall-to-wall people included several SEA members who had worked hard making phone calls and going door-to-door to help get the president reelected.
Robin McBrearty, who we profiled in December, was one of those members. The Chapter 1 member said the inaugural experience was exhilarating, even if she couldn’t really see the president or even the giant video monitors from where she was standing. As much as anything, she said the others in attendance helped make the experience what it was.
“I met so many people,” she said. “Everybody was there for the same reason, and you just struck up conversations.”
Another part of the good feeling was that through her volunteer efforts last year, she knew she had helped make this second inauguration possible for the president. Robin was one of 1,000 SEA members who volunteered time, energy, and resources to get out the vote last November.
“You felt like, ‘I helped accomplish this,’” she said. “That we had a part in that.”
In the crowd, she met a lot of other union members and found an instant connection.
“A lot were from other public employee unions, and we had the shared experience of being part of a public employee union,” McBrearty said. “People were very aware of what had been going on in New Hampshire like the all-woman delegation, and they were kind of astounded at what we’d accomplished.”
The SEA’s First Vice President Ken Roos was also in attendance Monday, having driven down and braved the crowds with his wife and daughter. Their spot in the crowd afforded a better view, at least, than McBrearty’s.
“If you turned your head just so, and looked under the branch of the tree in front of us, we could see the presidential seal and the white columns beneath the speaker’s podium,” he said.
Roos said that while this inauguration didn’t have the same significance as Obama’s first, the efforts that went into getting there were just as important.
“I experienced this realization that this was a result of the months of hard work of the many people back home who ensured a second term for President Obama and elected our two Congresswomen to help support his goals,” Roos said. “While about 10 degrees warmer than the previous event, the cold air provided a realization that while the political temperature is a little warmer in Washington, we still have to generate a little more heat to win the Fight for a Fair Economy.”
McBrearty agreed with Roos’ sentiment.
“We need to be vigilant to not lose the ground that we gained,” she said. “We need to stay on top of things.”
She pointed to efforts in several states to change the way electoral votes are handed out to make it easier for one party to win, which is referred to as gerrymandering. If those changes were in place for this election, we may have been seeing another president taking the oath of office on Monday.
“We need to keep informing people, keep commenting,” she said. “If you let your guard down, you’re going to lose.”