The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 28, 2013

Local family witnesses presidential inauguration ... twice

By Rebecca Croomes

— When it comes to presidential inaugurations, Mike Bailey has seen it all, twice.

Twice he’s been to Washington D.C. with his wife, Geraldine, and his 12-year-old daughter Jordan to see Barack Obama sworn in as president. Twice he’s braced the cold air to look up at the Capitol building, and twice he’s joined in the crowd cheering and singing.

“We’re always excited about it,” he said.

The first trip, Bailey and his family arrived in just enough time to stand toward the end of the National Mall and watch the events on one of the Jumbotron screens set up for the occasion. This time around, he had a better idea.

“It was awesome this time,” Bailey said.

He called Alabama’s congressional delegation and asked for tickets to the ceremony. Alabama’s passes were all sent out, but Sen. Jeff Sessions helped Bailey find tickets from Michigan and Indiana.

Some extended family drove down to Athens from Detroit and met the Baileys before the whole group traveled to Washington last weekend.

“We had a great trip,” Bailey said of the winter landscape on the drive up.

Early to the party this year, the family spent time sightseeing around the National Mall. They visited museums and the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, which was a special stop considering the second term of America’s first African-American president coincided with the nationally observed birthday of America’s most celebrated civil rights leader.

Bailey and the group also visited the Russell Senate Office Building to pick up their tickets before touring the Treasury and Department of Justice buildings. Jordan especially enjoyed the sights.

“It was exciting, a kid getting to go where they make money,” Bailey said. “My daughter had a fit over [the Justice] building. Those buildings are so nice.”

In a 2009 interview with The News Courier, Bailey said he thought Jordan felt inspired by the trip, but this year, he said she enjoyed everything more.

When the morning of the inauguration dawned, the group drove to a parking deck to find their spots. Bailey said as the exited their car, a woman approached and offered better “standing seats.”

She handed them each a program with the presidential seal embossed in gold leaf on a stout cream-colored cardstock. Inside were printed, autographed photographs of the president and Vice President Joe Biden.

“I thought this was awesome, getting a program from the president,” Bailey said.

As they made their way to the Capitol, Bailey took it all in. They stood on the ground not far below where Obama, Biden and all the special guests sat in a semicircle.

“I didn’t dream that we were getting that close up,” he said.

The weather was not as cold as 2009. It was still cloudy, and things were still crowded, but it was a time to celebrate. Everyone Bailey came across was hospitable and accommodating.

“It wasn’t no racial thing, I really admired that.”

Now back to his business, Bailey holds on to the programs, snapshots and newspapers of the day he witnessed history, for the second time.