WASHINGTON — Hundreds of Oklahomans — willing to endure huge crowds, cold weather and tight security — are heading here to see history made Tuesday when the first black president of the United States takes the oath of office. "It’s a culmination of all the hope I have for my children and my grandchildren,” said Candace Richerson of Yukon last week as she prepared for the trip. Eighth-grader Martena Hill of Oklahoma City, whose family was planning to be in Washington all weekend and then see the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, said, "It’s history. Not a lot of people get to go. I’m very lucky.” Actually, it’s probably going to seem like a whole lot of people to Hill, 14. Organizers are expecting anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million people, stretching nearly two miles from the U.S. Capitol steps, where Obama will be sworn in, to the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the National Mall, and along the parade route that ends at the White House. "The crowd estimate is kind of daunting,” said Betty McElderry, a longtime Democratic Party official from Purcell, who is making the trip. Unprecedented security and crowd-control measures are being taken — bridges linking Virginia to the District of Columbia are being shut down, forcing people on that side of the Potomac River to take the subway or walk. Police from several states have been recruited to help, and 10,000 National Guard members will be on hand.
A reception and a Western ballOklahoma’s senators and U.S. House members gave away nearly 1,800 tickets to the swearing-in to people from the state, who swamped their offices with requests. Rep. Dan Boren, the Oklahoma State Society in Washington and other sponsors, including some American Indian tribes, are hosting a reception tonight at the National Museum of the American Indian on the mall for Oklahomans coming to the inauguration and those in the area. What was envisioned as a relatively small event grew to more than 500 by week’s end. "President-elect Obama certainly can draw a crowd,” said Ryan Jackson, a top aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and the head of the Oklahoma society in Washington. Oklahomans have made a variety of arrangements for accommodations — from hotels to staying with friends to paying residents to use their homes. Jeremy Hendricks, who worked for Boren’s campaign and is helping to coordinate the reception for Oklahomans, said he has heard stories of people paying as much as $1,000 a night. Jackson said he hadn’t heard any complaints about rip-offs. Some of the many activities are open to the public, and others are by invitation. Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder are among those scheduled to perform at the Lincoln Memorial today. Oklahoma’s official inaugural ball Tuesday night will be at the Washington convention center. The jam-packed affair includes several other Western states — Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
A milestone in inclusivenessGov. Brad Henry and Attorney General Drew Edmondson plan to attend the reception tonight, along with Inhofe and Boren and other members of the D.C. delegation. Edmondson attended his first inauguration in 1965 — for Lyndon B. Johnson — when his father, Ed Edmondson, was in Congress. He said this one is historic "for all of the obvious reasons. "It marks a milestone in this country in our inclusiveness that is certainly significant,” he said. "But I couldn’t possibly feel the significance that it has for the African-American community — it has got to be incredible.”
Helping to make historyState Rep. Anastasia Pittman, a black Oklahoma City Democrat, arrived in Washington on Friday with her family and a Girl Scout troop from the St. John Christian Academy in Oklahoma City. An early supporter of Obama, Pittman said she came without hesitation, despite logistical issues. "My goal was to complete the task,” said Pittman, adding that she wasn’t only witnessing history but helping to make it. Pittman said Obama’s inauguration holds the promise for a better future for the country and particularly for black youths who feel disenfranchised.
Luper’s plans canceledCivil rights leader and educator Clara Luper of Oklahoma City wanted to come to the inauguration, but won’t be able to. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, reserved tickets for Luper, and Fallin’s office worked with Luper’s daughter, Marilyn Luper Hildreth, to make the logistics as easy as possible on Luper, who is 85 and in a wheelchair. But Hildreth said the challenges posed by the crowds were just too great. In a brief telephone interview, Luper said she wasn’t surprised a black person was elected president in her lifetime. "I came from a family of believers,” she said. "We believed in the sun when it didn’t shine. We believed in the rain when it wasn’t raining. My parents taught me to believe in a God I couldn’t see.” She said she wants to hear Obama speak Tuesday about "how he wants all of us to come together — black and white, sick and well. That’s what America is all about. This gives us an opportunity to practice what we’ve been preaching.”
• Barack Obama appears at the Lincoln Memorial to welcome people to a free concert featuring Garth Brooks, Beyonce Knowles, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and others.
• Reception at the National Museum of the American Indian for Oklahomans at the inauguration, sponsored by Rep. Dan Boren, the Oklahoma State Society and others. MONDAY Obama participates in community service activities in Washington on Martin Luther King Jr. Day; various balls and parties are scheduled, along with bipartisan dinners for Vice President-elect Joe Biden, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. TUESDAY
• 10:56 a.m.: Obama takes oath of office; after a 21-gun salute, Obama gives his inaugural address
• Noon: Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have lunch in U.S. Capitol with members of Congress
• About 1:30 p.m.: Inaugural parade begins
• 7 p.m.: Western Inaugural Ball for Oklahoma and 11 other states, Washington Convention Center WEDNESDAY
• National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral, the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, a graduate of the Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa and former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, was chosen to give the sermon. She is the first woman ever to do so at the traditional prayer service.