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Why a second inauguration matters

  • Sally Quinn is a columnist for the Washington Post
  • She says for Barack Obama, a second inauguration is actually more important than the first one
  • She says it's our chance to show the rest of the world what democracy really looks like
Why a second inauguration matters
Sally Quinn

Editor’s note: Sally Quinn is the columnist and editor-in-chief of “On Faith” for the Washington Post. She recently wrote the piece “Why a second inauguration? It’s not just for Washington, but all Americans.” She is on Twitter.

HLN: Why is a second-term inauguration just as important as the first one?
Sally Quinn: You might argue that for Barack Obama, the second inauguration is more important than the first one. The first inauguration was a giant celebration of the first black president of the United States. The second is about the re-election of him, the reaffirmation by the majority of Americas that he did a good job and that they wanted him again. For him, specifically, that’s really important. But I also think that the second inauguration is a little bit different. For a lot of people, the first one is about what I’m going to do, and the second one is who I’m going to be. It is a bit about the legacy.

HLN: Do you feel the word “inauguration” has an underlying meaning of something happening for the first time? Does that matter when it comes to a second-term inauguration?
SQ: Technically, it is happening for the first time -- it’s the first time that this president is re-elected. As John Meacham put it, “Being president of the United States is part of the most elite club in the world. Being a second-term president is being the most elite within the most-elite club.” It’s really a time for presidents to make their case.

HLN: In your article, you say an inauguration is a chance to show the world what democracy really looks like. What do you mean by that?
SQ: There isn’t enough money to buy the kind of publicity an inauguration gives the U.S. I think that saying “It’s too expensive, we don’t need it, it’s cold and we already know who he is” just misses the point. This is our chance to say to the world that this is what democracy looks like -- this is who we are and we’re the greatest country in the world. And we’re like this with no corruption, no bloodshed, no violence. This is what we do every four years. It serves to reinforce the notion that we are one country. No matter how divisive the campaign, on this one day, we are one. We are proud to be Americans and we all want the same thing for our country -- and we’re projecting our message to the world. For that, it’s a symbol of democracy that you can’t buy.

HLN: Do you feel that people are as excited for this year’s inauguration as they were for Barack Obama’s first-term inauguration?
SQ: It is different, but I think it’s equally as important. The first time -- it was huge! We celebrated our first black president. The first time we elect a woman it will be huge. But this time, I think people have been so depressed for the past four years, things are just beginning to pick up, and people want to make a statement that no matter how hard things get in this country, we can pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and keep going. You can’t keep us down. It’s not as much of jubilation, but it’s still important to celebrate.

HLN: Do you think that’s a reflection on how people feel about the president and his second term?
SQ: No, I can’t think of anyone else who would have done a better job given what he was given when he took office. He basically inherited the Titanic -- and it didn’t sink. It says we’re going to make it, we’re going to pull it together. We’ve done a lot to make the world a better place and we’re strong and we bounce back. There’s a sense of empowerment that you didn’t have before.

HLN: Do you believe that this second-term inauguration will help boots our morale as a nation?
SQ: Yeah, I do. People are feeling better about themselves and about being Americans. We’re a resilient people and we all care about our country -- it makes us all feel like we’re bigger than ourselves. We’re part of something bigger together.

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