Janet Sheridan: Inauguration Day
On Jan. 20, 1953, my fifth-grade class, suffering from frozen noses and wild excitement, climbed from the back of a farm truck after an open-air, arctic ride to Barney Cornaby’s house. Barney had invited us to his home, which held one of the few TVs in Lake Shore, to watch the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Whatever that was.
Trooping into the house, we threw boots, coats, snow pants, mittens, headscarves and hats with earflaps into a chaotic pile in Barney’s bedroom — a careless act that later delayed our departure by 30 minutes, made our teacher yell and gave Mrs. Cornaby a headache. Next we sat cross-legged in front of a huge cabinet that housed a tiny TV and watched an old man with a bald head swear he’d be president. He kept forgetting his words, but a man helped him. Then he put on his glasses and read his speech; it was long and boring so Blake and Ronny had to sit by the teacher until they could behave.
Eight years later in January 1961, I was a high school senior. Though I understood the significance of the inauguration, I cared more about the looks and fashion choices of the Kennedys: a young, handsome president who was hatless and coatless on a snowbound day and a pretty first lady in a designer pillbox hat and matching coat. Lost in thoughts about hairdos and hemlines, I missed the president’s words, “…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” but the commentators on TV repeated them again and again and again until I noticed.
The next inauguration riveted everybody as we listened to broadcasts and studied a photograph of the swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson, shortly after the death of our current President, John F. Kennedy. The photo showed several people, most of whom had accompanied President Kennedy or Vice President Johnson on the trip to Dallas, squeezed into the central compartment of Air Force One as Johnson, standing between his wife and Mrs. Kennedy, took the oath on a missal found on a side table in President Kennedy’s Air Force One bedroom. As the ceremony was being conducted on the plane, broadcaster Walter Cronkite read the official confirmation of President Kennedy’s death to a listening nation; and I stood before the TV in a university student union and wept.
I’ll never forget the feeling of terrible reality that swept me when I later read the photographer had suggested to Mrs. Kennedy that she face slightly away from the camera in order to hide the blood that stained her pink suit.
Starting with Johnson’s second inauguration in 1965, the ceremony slid by without my attention. Though I followed political news, weighed the candidates and voted, the inauguration itself became less important. News highlights met my need to know. The president-elects and how closely their policies, beliefs and values aligned with mine mattered more to me than what they wore or said during their inauguration.
Over the years, following our presidential elections, I’ve sometimes been excited, hopeful and jubilant and at other times disappointed, concerned and dismayed. But always, on Inauguration Day, I have wished each president-elect well because every day I live I wish our country well.
Throughout its history, and 43 presidents, the United States of America has survived, has found its way, has become better than it was — though the journey at times has been difficult.
So on January 20, once again, I will wish our new president the wisdom, insight and ability to shepherd us well.
Janet Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every monthJanet Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every monthJanet Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every month
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On a summer morning in southern Idaho, the day breaks early, before 6 a.m. The air is stale, never fully cooled from the heat of the day before.