By plane, train and automobile, Maggie Rivera and Paula Yensen made their way to Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.
Their ultimate destination is the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building, where President Barack Obama will be sworn in today for his second term. It is the fourth inauguration for Rivera, of Crystal Lake – Midwest vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens – and the first for Yensen, of Lake in the Hills – one of the McHenry County Board’s two Democratic members.
Both secured tickets for the inauguration, and both have hopes for what Obama and a deeply divided Congress can accomplish over the next four years.
“My hope is that Congress can work together collaboratively with the country’s best interests at heart,” Yensen said. “This polarization is a detriment to the future of our country, and it’s my hope that they can work across the aisle and work in the best interests of everyone.”
Rivera attended both inaugurations of George W. Bush and Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. This trip is for business as well as witnessing history – LULAC and other Latino organizations are meeting in Washington to draft their legislative agenda for the new Congress.
She returned to Crystal Lake on Thursday evening from Zacatecas, Mexico, and collected some luggage to catch a red-eye flight Friday morning for Washington.
“For one, I hope that immigration reform gets passed, and I hope health care reform gets implemented in a way that’s going to be beneficial to all who lack health insurance,” Rivera said.
Yensen’s trip is a bit more involved. She took a train to Galesburg to meet up with the friend who secured the tickets so they could drive to Washington; Yensen’s friend is afraid of flying.
Yensen’s husband, Democratic Party of McHenry County Chairman Michael Bissett, could not get a ticket but will watch the inauguration at a party.
She said the event is even more historical for her because an African-American president is being sworn in on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on King’s Bible. When she was a doctoral student at Michigan State University, she was among the supporters who filled six buses to go to Washington and press Congress to approve the national holiday.
“Here we are; we’re coming full circle that the inauguration is on Dr. King’s holiday with a second inauguration of President Obama,” Yensen said. “It’s a very symbolic day for me.”
Obama actually will be sworn in on two Bibles – one that belonged to King and another used at Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration. This year is the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slavery over in any state in rebellion against the Union.
Yensen said she would like to see a complete drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, decisive action on the national debt, and to find ways to get more people back to work and speed up the economic recovery.
Enthusiasm for any inauguration is, of course, muted on the side whose candidate lost. Mike Tryon, McHenry County Republican Party chairman, said he would like to see Obama embrace improving a market-driven economy rather than looking to government to spur growth.
“I look at some of the fundamental building blocks of our country, and when you go back to see what made us a great nation, it’s because we’ve been soundly rooted in a market-based economy,” said Tryon, a state representative. “In the past four years, we’ve created a lot of regulations – some that were necessary, but others not, and a greater tax burden on businesses. Right now, we have government growing at a greater rate than the private sector.”
How to watch
The swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. CST.