Excitement, high hopes await Obama's 2nd inauguration

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Local,Andy Brownfield,Inauguration

With nearly a million people descending on Washington for President Obama's second inauguration on Monday, streets will be closed, public transportation will be jammed and hundreds of thousands of people will be left to shiver in the cold for hours. But on the eve of the 57th presidential inauguration, the mood in town was one of excitement and anticipation.

Lisa Benoin, 47, of Los Angeles, was so excited about attending her first inauguration that she decided to sign up as a volunteer. Despite having tickets of her own, she will be ushering nonticketed attendees to open viewing areas on the National Mall.

"It's my first time in the capital -- it's wonderful," she said. "I wish I had more days. I walked for seven hours yesterday [looking at monuments]."

District officials expect up to 700,000 people to show up for Obama's swearing in, and by Sunday, thousands of out-of-towners were cramming together along the inaugural parade route, trying to catch a glimpse of the White House between the bleachers set up there. Thousands more posed for pictures near monuments or paid their respects at the World War II and Vietnam War memorials. Street vendors were hocking commemorative lanyards, buttons, hats and T-shirts.

Dacia Heck, 33, of Chicago, attended Obama's first inauguration and said she's mainly looking forward to speech.

"I'm hoping for a speech more like his Grant Park speech [on election night] in 2008," Heck said. "It was a vision of hope and looking forward. His 2009 inauguration speech was good, but I thought [Grant Park] was Obama the orator at his best."

Heck said she learned from the last inauguration to arrive early and bring a blanket.

Some do much more planning for their visit.

Sheila and Charles Chandler, of Lancaster, Calif., booked their flight to Washington the night before the November election, and their hotel room a week before that -- leap-of-faith reservations they'd have to cancel if Obama lost.

Though they don't have tickets for the swearing-in, the Chandlers mapped out a plan of attack, finding the quickest ways to the Mall, with backup routes in case those roads are crowded.

The couple had high hopes for Obama's second term, hoping he would have greater latitude to press his agenda.

"I want to see him do the things he wanted to do in his first term, but was blocked by the right," Charles Chandler said. "Things like immigration reform, gun control and doing more things for the middle and lower classes."

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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