Father, son attend historic Obama inauguration

February 5, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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Rob Sargent, of Newcastle, with then-Sen. Barack Obama at a June 1, 2007, fundraising reception at the Seattle Westin Hotel.  By Debora Spencer Photography

Rob Sargent, of Newcastle, with then-Sen. Barack Obama at a June 1, 2007, fundraising reception at the Seattle Westin Hotel. By Debora Spencer Photography

Making a campaign contribution to Obama’s campaign: $25.

Attending a 2007 Seattle fundraising reception for Obama: $500.

Spending father-son time at Obama’s inauguration: priceless.

Last month, Rob Sargent, of Newcastle, and his son, Kyle, a Maywood Middle School student, made a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to capture a glimpse of history in the making as they attended Barack Obama’s swearing-in as the 44th president of the United States.

“It was frenetic, surreal and an emotional time for some people in the audience,” Rob said. “People were crying during the swearing-in ceremony. It was also a festive event, almost a rock concertlike crowd.”

 The two almost missed the event. Rob and Kyle stayed up until 3:30 a.m. the day of the inauguration, talking politics with friends at their hotel. A 5 a.m. wake up call came too soon for the two and they nodded off after the alarm.

 

Rob Sargent’s view of President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Sargent and his son, Kyle, were standing on the east side of the Capitol Building during the event.  By Rob Sargent

Rob Sargent’s view of President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Sargent and his son, Kyle, were standing on the east side of the Capitol Building during the event. By Rob Sargent

About two hours later, Kyle woke and saw it was 7:15 a.m.

“Hey, aren’t we supposed to be leaving by now?” Kyle asked his father.

They quickly dressed, skipped breakfast and made the two-mile hike down Massachusetts Avenue to find their ticketed area on the east side of the Capitol Building across the street from the Supreme Court. (The swearing-in ceremony was on the west side of the Capitol Building, overlooking the National Mall). They viewed the event on one of the many large-screen televisions in the area.

“I am deeply proud of my country right now,” Rob said. “Not because we elected an African-American president, but because we chose the candidate best suited for the job of uniting our country, moving it in a positive direction and rehabilitating our standing among nations.”

Before the swearing-in ceremony, former elected officials were introduced to the audience. Bill Clinton and Al Gore drew loud cheers from the audience, while George Bush and Dick Cheney elicited jeers and a chorus of boos. Some audience members began singing, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Them Goodbye” after Bush and Cheney were introduced, Rob said.

“I was disappointed by that,” he said of mocking the previous administration.

Kyle, 13, and Rob, 48, an owner of a printing company with operations in Seattle and Redmond, were part of about 2 million people who crowded the National Mall on Inauguration Day. 

By comparison, about 400,000 people attended George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2005. Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration drew the previous record of 1.2 million people in 1965.

In addition to working on campaigns for Obama, Gov. Chris Gregoire and 8th District Congressional candidate Darcy Burner, Rob hosts an informal progressive social group, Drinking Liberally, that meets monthly at a restaurant in Newport Hills to discuss politics. He is also an elected precinct committee officer in the 41st Legislative District and an area coordinator in Newcastle. 

Obama has sparked an unprecedented spirit of civic engagement with his inspiring speeches and call to service, Rob said.

“A lot of people got involved with the Obama campaign that hadn’t previously participated, and I think that led to his winning both the primary and the general election,” he said.

As an assignment for school, Kyle compiled a diary of his trip to D.C.  Witnessing the inauguration of the first black president will be a lifelong, cherished memory for Kyle, Rob said.

“It may not have much significance now, but I think it will have much significance for him later in life,” he said.  “I’m very proud of my country, my president and my son.”

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