UPDATE: A better picture of this sign was Twitpic'd HERE by Twitter user infernoenigma. From there it got "Dugg" up the charts. See it on Digg HERE. All Tweeters and Diggers, I welcome debate and discussion in the comments section.
In an earlier post, I solicited suggestions for what to write on the homemade sign I would carry around on Inauguration Day. I decided to go with a short and sweet message: Dear World, We're Back! Love, U.S.A.
I was astounded by the reactions this sign received. I held it while I was waiting in the glacial line to get through the security checkpoint. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every person who saw the sign had a positive reaction. So many people stopped and wanted to take a picture that I started to worry that the crowd would further clog up the street, so I took the sign down every now and then. I think it helped keep people in a good mood while we were all wondering if we'd get on to the Mall in time.
Some people simply wanted to take a picture. Other people wanted to stand by me and have a friend take their picture. Still others wanted to take the sign from me and have their picture taken holding it. People in line started joking that I should be selling photos for $5 a pop.
I knew that signs weren't allowed at the ceremony, so before we passed through security, I folded it up and stuffed it in the manilla envelope that held our tickets.
Once the ceremony was over, I pulled the sign out again and held it over my head in the crowd. People loved it. Hundreds of people took pictures with their digital cameras and cell phones. Maybe ten people that looked like media photographers snapped shots and a few cameramen zoomed in on it as well.
One guy took a picture and said, "This is goin' up on an Irish website!"
Another guy said, "This is goin' back to Australia!"
I think I gave an interview to a reporter from a small newspaper in California, but I can't be sure.
One guy handed me a dollar bill and said, "Here man, you ought to be getting paid."
A woman gave me a granola bar and said, "This will help you keep up the energy."
This went on for some time. At one point, I climbed up on a concrete barrier in front of the Capitol and held the sign up in the freezing wind. I thought I was going to get knocked off the wall when people surged forward to take pictures and jump up beside me. I could have stayed out there all day (I kept joking that I would wait there until the Washington Post came by), but it was cold and getting windier and we were tired and hungry and thirsty. (So I guess it's more accurate to say I could not have stayed out there all day.)
It was exciting to see how much everyone wanted to echo the sentiment on my sign. It really did seem to capture what I think was one of the two big themes expressed in the crowd. The first theme was the elation, pride, and everything else that goes along with electing the first African-American president. The second theme--which the sign was a part of--was something like this:
America is undergoing a restoration and reclamation. We are restoring government so that it works for us instead of against us. We humbly seek to earn a position of moral authority and honorable leadership in the world. We want the people of the world to know that we hear them. We want them to know that we as a people are better than these last eight years, that our government has not represented us. Our government has been a vicious and alien thing sitting on top of us instead of a compassionate and democratic thing rising up from us. We're putting those disgraceful years behind us, and we're going to set things right. We're moving forward. We're back.
I think if my sign had said those words, the reactions would have been the same (although people would have had to spend 30 seconds reading it). I believe the general attitude that we are back is part of why the crowd was so cheerful and hopeful. News reports say there were zero arrests at the inauguration. Two million people and no arrests. I have a feeling that big things are coming and that maybe everyone is underestimating the kind of transformation that is going on in the country.