A young Episcopalian's dispatch from Washington

January 22, 2009

Editor's note: Lily Watson, who is 15 and an active member of Christ and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport, Connecticut, attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on January 20 as part of a program sponsored by LeadAmerica, a Boca Raton, Florida-based youth leadership organization. She filed these impressions:

We got to our area on the Mall at about 5:30 a.m. to get a good spot. We weren't in a ticketed area, but we were a lot further forward than the Washington Monument, which is about a mile away from the Capitol. Our best view was from a jumbo-sized video screen. My friends and I spent the time before the speech huddled up close and playing games like charades to pass the seemingly endless amount of time.

I noticed a lot of references to faith and religion during the actual ceremony, the most obvious being the Rev. Rick Warren's opening prayer. I was surprised at the bad reception when the prayer was first announced -- most people looked around in a confused or tense manner and I even heard a "boo" from over my shoulder. Once the prayer began, I folded my hands and bowed my head, only to look up a few minutes later to realize that I was the only one. I was surprised when the crowd even cheered at the mention of President Obama's name during the prayer, which I'm not used to.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the prayer, and some people, including me, began reciting the Lord's Prayer along with Warren at the end. After the "Amen," he received loud, enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, which cheered me up considerably. I then realized that perhaps Obama, as a president, could re-inspire those who had lost their faith to return to their religious communities. His influence could do a great thing for Christians and people of any religion. I also noticed that both Obama and Vice President Biden included "so help me God" at the end of their swearing-in. Although I am aware this is a tradition based on the words of George Washington, I was pleased with the boldness of the way they said it, like it had a true meaning rather than just words that they had to memorize.

My favorite religious reference was in Obama's speech, when he talked about the diverse religions in the country and even mentioned the non-believers. For me the speech was very symbolic because it showed that despite differences, whether they be religious or racial, a country can still pull together under a strong leader. Obama symbolizes overcoming differences to overcome crisis which means a lot in our current national situation. I felt like I was experiencing a one-of-a-kind moment that not many have experienced and not many will ever experience again. I became overwhelmed with emotion after the speech and felt like I was floating on air despite the hunger, cold, and extreme crowd crush. It was like everything melted away for a few moments and I was able to experience the true glory of what I had witnessed. It was truly unforgettable.

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