Here are some photographs I took at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama.
Eight years ago I sat alongside 1.8 million people in the before-dawn darkness on the National Mall. Temperatures were in the low 20s (°F), and sitting on the ground made it even colder. It was so chilly that we were huddling together, packed tightly like sardines, strangers alongside strangers, teeth chattering and barely saying a word, trying desperately to keep warm.
As the sun appeared, and the temperatures rose, people began to spread out. It was the first opportunity I had to see the massive crowd that arrived and I was struck by both the diversity of the people and the joy that radiated.
What I remember most about that day was the underlying sensation that we were part of something important. Something beyond day-to-day politics and ideology and something bigger than ourselves. The sense of community was overwhelming and palpable.
One might argue that every inauguration feels that way; after all, the mood is biased almost exclusively toward the views of whomever is being sworn in. But the joy I witnessed that day felt unique. There was a purity to it. There was an inherent goodness that still fills my heart when I look back at these photographs. It wasn’t a joy at the expense of others. It wasn’t a victory lap for a narrow few. It was a universal celebration of what human beings can aspire to and accomplish when they let go of their fears, get each others’ backs, and come together.
I know better than to argue politics on the internet. But whether you’re “winning” or “losing” or confident or gutted, there will always be inherent comfort, optimism, and peace in your fellow human beings. Even and maybe especially in those who look and think differently than you. Politicians will come and go. Your hopeful favorites will always disappoint. But at the end of the day, the only thing that remains constant is that we’re all in this together. Lift somebody up. Send the elevator back down. Celebrations are better with others by your side.