WASHINGTON — From Baton Rouge area residents busing up to Washington, D.C., to the Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band performing in the inaugural parade, Louisiana made its present felt Monday on Inauguration Day.
The pomp and circumstance surrounded a speech by President Barack Obama, in which he promoted compromise but also pledged to move forward on contentious issues like gay rights, immigration reform, climate change, equal-pay legislation and reducing the federal deficit.
Hours later, Obama was even seen bobbing to the beat of the Grambling marching band’s performance.
Baton Rouge resident Erma Barton, 64, made her first-ever trip to Washington to see Obama and experience an inauguration on a day that also fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“It means a lot to me,” Barton said. “We got to see quite a bit and some things I’ve never seen before.
“We’re just looking forward to the next four years,” she added.
Baker resident Judith Fontenot was excited to join a Baton Rouge group bus trip to see the president and the inauguration.
“I’m hoping the people we elected into the Senate and Congress will come together and work along with the president,” Fontenot said. “They don’t have to always agree, but they can work more together and stop with all the criticizing. We were always taught to respect the presidency.”
One of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, retired U.S. Master Sgt. Ezra M. Hill, of Virginia, said he never expected the nation to progress as quickly as it has.
“In my lifetime, I never expected you’d see an African-American president,” Hill said. “It’s not that no one would be qualified, but that everything takes time.”
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said Monday offered a “great speech” and day.
The president offered an “olive branch” to Republicans, Richmond said. Obama focused much of his comments on the need to accomplish goals as best as possible without expecting “perfect” results, Richmond said.
“I thought it was a very ambitious and specific speech on things he’d like to see accomplished in the second term,” Richmond added. “I don’t think that’s very common in an inauguration speech.”
But U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said he wanted the president to offer more specifics on the specific issues he mentioned.
“I don’t think he wants the Republicans and Democrats to get a long as much as he says,” Alexander said, noting that he hopes the president focuses more on policy in his upcoming State of the Union speech.
Apart from the politics though, Alexander said, “Other than being cold, it was a pretty good historical event.” Overall, he still called Obama’s address a “good speech.”
“I thought the president delivered a good speech,” he said. “It was a little different than I was expecting.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said he sees Inauguration Day as a “new start” with a second presidential term.
“No matter who is elected president, it is an important part of our country’s experience that we celebrate the inauguration,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy said he hopes Obama takes his own advice about the “name calling” in politics and to focus on improving the country.
“He mentioned reducing the federal deficit,” Cassidy said. “I was pleased to hear that. That’s somewhere I’d like to start.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, put out a statement after the inauguration challenging the president to end his “extremism.”
“If President Obama wants to build a successful legacy, he will put an end to the heated rhetoric and extreme policies that have divided our nation and held back our economy, and finally work in a bipartisan way to stop Washington from spending money it doesn’t have and create jobs to rebuild our middle class,” Scalise stated.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., took a much lighter approach though in an email response.
“It was a beautiful day in our nation’s capital to celebrate freedom and democracy. I am hopeful that the cooperative spirit genuinely felt here will carry on to the tough work ahead for the 113th Congress,” Landrieu stated. “I know the Louisiana crowd had a great time and enjoyed gumbo and Gulf shrimp served in their honor at parties around town.”