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'That's Our Guy': Chicagoans Welcome Obama Back To D.C.

Jan 20, 2013
Originally published on January 20, 2013 9:23 am

For President Obama's first inauguration, Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois organized a group of more than 700 people — on 10 buses — to make the journey from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

Last time, one of those buses broke down. This time, however, the group decided to take an 18-hour Amtrak ride to see the second presidential inauguration of their hometown hero.

Davis staffer Tumia Romero, who organized the trip, says she did not want to deal with the nightmare of a bus having issues again.

"Someone emailed me and said, 'Let's take a plane this time,'" Romero says. "So I thought the train was a compromise."

There only about half as many travelers to organize this time around, so Rep. Davis' office chartered cars on the Amtrak train. The group was mostly black, mostly over the age 60 and from Chicago's west and south sides.

Conversations varied as the group mingled in the coach cabins, observation lounge and in the cafe car, but eventually talk turned to the inauguration and the future.

Jeanette Parks volunteered during the president's first campaign, and this last election she says she knocked on more than a thousand doors for President Obama. This inauguration, Parks says, is more special than the last.

"Because he doesn't have to run anymore, he can stand up and say, 'I am the man this time,' " Parks says.

While there was a lot of revelry, there was a lot of talk about what the second inaugural means for the people on the train.

"Part of it is pride, just plain old, natural pride," says Rep. Davis.

Davis says this inauguration is especially meaningful for Chicagoans who've supported the president for years.

"There's a recognition that your town has made a serious contribution to what the country has become and is becoming," he says.

Davis says he's seen many politicians rise and fall, but that for many this president and this inaugural is more personal.

"It's the feeling that a father gets when his son is a leading actor in the school play," he says. "'Hey, that's my boy ... Barack's from the South Side of Chicago. That's our guy.' "

This train was full of supporters like Janice Trice, who says she has a lot of expectations for the next term, as well as a special kind of support for President Obama.

"We pray for you every day that God would put his loving arms around him, and protect him," Trice says.

Trice says the president needs it, and so does the country.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

They're coming on planes, trains and automobiles. This weekend, thousands of people are converging on the nation's capitol, ahead of the presidential inauguration festivities. One of the larger groups is coming from the president's hometown. Hundred of Chicagoans rode in chartered train cars for 18 long hours.

NPR's Sonari Glinton was along for the ride.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: In what they call the Great Hall of Chicago's Union station at the height of rush hour, a few hundred men and women slowly made their way to two folding chairs where Tiama Romero was holding court.

TIAMA ROMERO: Norda, can you get on that train. It connects with after a (unintelligible). If you don't mind waiting over here, that would be great.

NORDA: OK, but I already have my ticket though.

ROMERO: OK, Can you wait over here for me, please?

NORDA: Sure.

GLINTON: Romero has been working in the office of Congressman Danny Davis for more than 14 years. During the first inaugural, Romero's staff organized a trip for over 700 people in 10 buses. One of those buses broke down. This time Romero said she not having any of that.

ROMERO: To be honest with you, I didn't want to deal with the nightmare of bus having issues like it did last time. Someone emailed me and said, Can you - let's take a plane this time, Tiama. So I thought the train was the compromise.

GLINTON: This time, there only about half as many travelers to organize. Congressman Davis' office chartered cars on the Amtrak train. This group was mostly African-American, mostly over-60, and mostly from Chicago's West and South Sides.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: All right, welcome. We're glad to have you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

CROWD: Woo-woo.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: All right, woo is right. All right, straight ahead, (unintelligible) group. Have fun.

(LAUGHTER)

GLINTON: There were coaches, sleeping cars, an observation lounge. But the fun was to be had late night in the cafe car. There was a little bit of liquor, a few card games and a lot of trash talking.

JONATHAN: This is Jonathan.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: You cheat.

JONATHAN: This is Jonathan. We just got a nice butt whooping in spades. I'm teaching right now. I told you...

GLINTON: Almost every conversation eventually turned to the inauguration and the future. Jeanette Parks volunteered during the president's first campaign. And this time she knocked on more than a thousand doors for him. This inauguration, Parks says, is more special than the last.

JEANETTE PARKS: Because he don't have to run any more, he can stand up and say, I am the man this time.

JONATHAN: Right. Next?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: That's what he's doing.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Right, and what a man, girl.

PARKS: Right, that's right. I am the man.

(LAUGHTER)

GLINTON: While there was a lot of revelry there was a lot of talk about what the second inaugural means for the people on the train.

REPRESENTATIVE DANNY DAVIS: Part of it is pride. Just plain old natural pride.

GLINTON: Congressman Danny Davis organized this trip. And he says this inauguration is especially meaningful for Chicagoans who've supported the president for years.

DAVIS: There's a recognition that your town has made a serious contribution to what the country has become and is becoming.

GLINTON: Davis says he's seen many politicians arise and fall. But he says, for many this president and this inaugural is more personal.

DAVIS: The feeling that a father gets when his son is the leading actor in the school play, you know, hey, that's my boy.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: Hey, Barack's from the South Side of Chicago. That our guy.

GLINTON: This train was full of supporters. Janice Trice says she has a lot of expectations for the next term. And she says she wants the president to know...

JANICE TRICE: We pray for you every day that God will put his love and arms around him and protect us.

GLINTON: Trice says the president needs it and so does the country.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.