I moved to Washington, DC in September 1996. I’ll never forget the first time I visited, and how excited and awed I was by the city. I still am, even though I’ve come to know this region as much more than just the seat of government. It’s not just museums and monuments, but a region that includes a whole lot of people who make our government work. Sure, we’re not known for our fashion sense and we’re not as kind to tourists as we should be. We rush around with our noses in newspapers and books rather than saying hello to the people around us. But DC is a big part of who I am, which is something that really hit home yesterday, every time the cameras panned outwards.
I went to my first inauguration that winter, January 1997, to see Bill Clinton’s second inauguration. It was bitterly cold, especially for a west-coaster like myself, and I remember not lasting too long out in the crowds and the winds. My friends and I eventually found a restaurant somewhere to watch the rest of the ceremony (you couldn’t see anything out on the mall anyway).
Twenty-four years later, I still remember every Election Day and Inauguration. Some were celebrated and some were cried over, but this one touched me like no other. I watched the entire ceremony and the Inaugural concert, and I was in tears for most of it. I loved Biden’s speech for its sincerity and for the way he plainly established his priorities. I loved the performances. I was awestruck by the power and beauty of Amanda Gorman’s poem.
My husband maybe said it best: he feels like we’ve gotten our city back. Back from the corruption and the nastiness and the people heading up agencies who only wanted to run them into the ground. Not that all of that will go away, but some of it will.
I’ve been a federal employee under the four previous administrations, and I know how dedicated most federal staff are. Most of you don’t see the work we do, only the leaders who speak for us. For four years we “feds” have been anxiously, sometimes furtively, trying to keep things running, while the country felt like it was falling apart around us.
Now we have a fresh start, and I’m filled with hope. I trust this new team, whoever it will include. I trust them to bring expertise and ethics to their leadership roles, something we haven’t had for four years.
The federal government is just one slice of this region I call home. DC is the Dupont Circle neighborhood where I lived on my own for the first time. It’s the place I met my husband, and the place of many adventures I shared with my sister. It’s the shop in Georgetown where I got my tattoo. It’s Old Town Alexandria with its cobblestone streets. It’s outdoor concerts, coffee shops, used bookstores, and favorite places to sit and read on a warm day.
The administration has a huge impact on the morale of this region, for better or for worse. Every administration is different, and they all bring challenges. I expect this new administration will ask us to work harder, but I’ll be glad if it means they care about what we do. I can’t say what this new administration will bring. But I can tell you that many of the people of the DC region felt a huge weight lifted from us yesterday.
We have our city back.
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