WASHINGTON, D.C. — Penny and John Clute walked a long way to attend the presidential inauguration on Monday.
The Plattsburgh couple had to park near Arlington Cemetery, 2 miles from the Washington Mall, where they joined some 800,000 revelers to watch President Barack Obama take his oath of office for a second term.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t hear the speech,” said Penny, a retired Plattsburgh City Court judge and former Clinton County district attorney. “There was a Jumbotron screen there, and it worked fine for the hour before the official program started; then the picture and the sound kept going out.
“They had some technology problems.”
Despite the faulty technical connection, she said in a phone interview, the crowd was energized, enthusiastic and upbeat, even in the chilly winter air.
“It was wonderful. It was very positive.”
Amid a diverse program of music and prayer, poetry, remarks and fanfare on the flag-emblazoned steps of the U.S. Capitol, the president spoke, calling several times to “We, the people.”
Obama spoke of Martin Luther King Jr., who, 50 years ago, had addressed the crowd on the Washington Mall and shared the dream he held for humanity.
The celebration of Martin Luther King Day added focus to the 57th inauguration and called to the achievement of a diverse nation.
Obama touched on civil-rights issues, equal pay for women, access to education and health care, and he spoke about the divide between rich and poor. He called for gay and lesbian civil rights and for unity in addressing the threat of climate change.
Before a sea of waving American flags, the president called for prosperity on the backs of a rising American middle class.
“The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob,” Obama said.