"ever forward"

Today, we did not realize, was Bid Day at American.  For those uninitiated into sorority culture, it comes after Rush, which is when prospective girls and sororities attend a massive amount of get-togethers in the attempt to find a good match with each other.  

Bid Day is a Big Deal.  It is when you find out which sorority picked you -- there is a complicated mutual matching process, but that is a post for another day -- and at a pre-arranged place, all the sisters gather and welcome you into the sorority.  There is, to be expected, a lot of screaming involved.  It was this particular screaming that caught our attention in the middle of "Colloquium: History of the United States 1865 - Present" because it was all around us and quite honestly, came out of nowhere.

It's a big class, and a significant chunk of them are girls, and I was the only sorority member there.  I realize that there is a nerd factor with History MAs that does not usually correspond on the Venn Diagram of Life with sorority membership, but it's not unheard of.   Still, everyone was rolling their eyes at "those sorority girls" and while I realize that's a typical response, I wasn't sure how to explain.  Of course, I mentioned that I was the only one there (laughing) but I couldn't really explain Bid Day. 

My Bid Day was fabulous.  There were only 4 of us, because we were the smallest sorority, and other groups had new member ("pledge" having all those connotations, it's no longer used) classes of 20-25, but we were 4.  We had to run the length of the soccer field, because that's where the Sigma girls were, but it was exhilarating, running all the way, and running right into screaming, hugging, happy girls who were so thrilled to have us.  Of course, I knew most of the girls at this point (and lived with some of them) but nonetheless it was wonderful.  

The next year, I helped at Rush and again, they had a low number of girls.  This was particularly painful, because we had worked so hard and met some wonderful girls.  But that's how the chips fall.  Everyone was depressed, and showed it on the field, before our new girls came out to meet us.   I realized then: Wow, they must have been sad last year too -- but I had no idea.  I had no idea that to get a class of 4 is a hard blow to the sorority, and painful doubly so because of all the other classes around you at that exact moment.  I just felt loved and so close to all my friends.

I was determined to not let the new girls feel this way.  We chanted and cheered until we couldn't scream anymore, because I wanted them to have the same experience that I did.  That welcoming sense, that love, that embracing (literally) that I remember as such a happy night.

So maybe I can convey what Bid Night means to me... but it's tricky.   

I can't explain that these bonds are deep, and the happiness I get when I think of the mini-sisterhood nights that I had with two of my closest friends, Jen and Hannah, while we watched Battlestar Galactica together.  It lives on, in our frantic emails back and forth between the three of us, trying to solve who the final Cylon was, and I love it.

Oh, and of course I texted cousin Jacqui, a Chi Omega here at American -- she sent back: "haha sorry we're so obnoxious."   Honestly, though?  It just made me happy.



So this past Tuesday was Inauguration.  I debated going out of town, but eventually got convinced (it wasn't too hard) into staying.  In retrospect: how could I not?  I just had to bear the crowds, the cold, the standing.  It was absolutely worth it. 

It began with a slumber party at our friends' house, where we painted our nails red, white and blue and then woke up early.  We ended up taking a bus quite far down (National Cathedral to Farragut Square) and it wasn't crowded -- which we credited to the hour and the fact that MetroBus is kind of intimidating to tourists.  But not to us! 

So we made it, and made it in and out of Starbucks rather quickly as well.  Yes, we can!  Leah and Olivia are clearly excited:

we make a party in the streets

Here I am on the Mall, apparently holding up the Reflecting Pool:

supporting the reflecting pool

Once we got on the Mall, it was too cold to take off my gloves... (19°) so I texted with my nose! 


The View: Actually quite good, because a lot of people couldn't see the Capitol. :) 

the view!

This photo is me freaking out, as Obama is supposed to be sworn in at noon (it ended up being 12:05).  Only me.

paranoid about the constitution

The actual swearing-in...

swearing in!

Can you see how many people there are?  Also they stretched from building to building on the Mall.  It was... unreal.

lots of folks!

This is Leah and me, excited after the actual swearing-in! 

new president happiness

...and finally:


We sat next to this sign the entire time, and this -- right after the swearing-in -- seemed just so perfect.  All in all, I'm not sure I can really find words to describe this.  It was such a happy crowd, and everyone cheering during the speech -- I cried! -- and the sweet melody of "Simple Gifts," which I associate with American ingenuity and a new birth -- a new birth of freedom, Lincoln would say.  Leah and I smiled during the speech, nudging each other when we sensed a Lincolnian turn of phrase (there were a few) or (in my case) when Gettysburg was mentioned.

I thought the speech was lovely.  I know some have said it was making jabs at the Bush administration, but I don't think that was the point.  At this point, it is about unity, about reclaiming our proud heritage and status as world leader -- not enforcer, but leader towards democracy and all those ideals that we espouse.  I thought it was more a call to service -- a call to abandon the failing ways, admit that some are no longer functioning, and use that intellect to forge a new path forward.  

I think unity is the key word here.  People booed when President Bush was on the screen, which I thought was in poor taste, both in regard to respect for the office, and the calls for unity.  Obama spoke firmly about "unity of purpose over conflict and discord," and I believe that speaks to the heart of the issue.  We need to move forward, united as a common people, embracing what I believe is our birthright of freedom and hope and change.  Hope and change are not just qualities that symbolize Obama, but rather what we know we're capable of.  Josh put it rightly that all candidates run on the platform of change, and this is no different.  The change, however, is not just in government, but in ourselves, and it's that change that we need to embrace. 

There is so much to this speech that I loved, including the winter metaphors, but particularly: 
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
I'm so happy I was there. 

...of course, more photos.