A Cultural Consortium

Walter E. Howell ’09 chronicles the mingling on the Mall

When I committed to staying up all night, to getting to the Mall earlier than anyone else, I didn’t know it would be below ten degrees in Washington D.C. Yet the most jarring experience of the morning was not the cold, nor the fact that I wasn’t alone waiting at 4:30 a.m.. It was the sea of humanity surrounding me. Every race, color, creed, and age had come to lend support.

My friends and I ran to the Mall, arms outstretched, breathing it all in, while singing whatever we wanted—“My Country ’Tis of Thee,” “America, the Beautiful,” and “America, F*** Yeah.”

A group of older black women offered us hot chocolate because they liked that we were singing. To our right, a middle-aged couple from Seattle sat smiling. It was their first time in Washington, first time in a crowd this large, they said.

I was with my girlfriend, whom I met almost a year ago in Cairo. I held her close as he spoke of the Muslim world:

“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West—know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

We cheered with the crowd. I kissed her cheek.

“This is the price and promise of citizenship.”

A young black man was in front of me with his friends. At the end of the speech, we hug. I don’t even know him, and never will speak with him again. We just say, “Obama, man, Obama.”

From the Mall, the sea of humanity dispersed, returning to our jobs, our schools, our lives.