Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration: Don't forget Truman

My ticket to the presidential inauguration is colorful and in good condition. Its only flaw is that I already used it, 60 years ago at the inauguration of President Harry Truman. I shivered, along with everybody else who watched the Jan. 20 ceremonies outside the Capitol. As a journalist, I noticed that arrangements had been made for the relatively new medium of television.

I was registered at Washington’s Hamilton Hotel. It seemed like a good idea to watch some of the television coverage, so I asked for a TV set in my room. I was lucky enough to get one of the few sets available. It was wheeled in and I was charged a rental fee equal to one-half of my room rate. The room was $8 - the TV was an additional $4.

The ticket entitled me to a seat across the street from the White House reviewing stand. I think I remember - 60 years is a long time - that the parade lasted for seven hours.

It was a double-decker, with thousands of marchers on the pavement and armadas of military planes overhead.

At the time, I was the 23-year-old editor of a national labor paper, and I was gung-ho for Truman. At another time, I was a reporter on a daily published by William Randolph Hearst. My assignments included dredging up comments from advocates of Gen. Douglas MacArthur for president. I covered Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy during their 1960 campaign visits to Hawaii, which had just become a state. I wrote Spiro Agnew’s biographical sketch for the Official Inaugural Program when he became vice president. That was before it was disclosed that his term as governor of Maryland had something in common with later Illinois disclosures.

While I was a journalist in Honolulu, a kid with a Kenyan dad and a Kansas mom was enrolled in a local school. After he grew up and delivered a breathtaking speech at the Democratic National Convention four years ago, I wrote a July 5, 2005 op-ed column for a Florida newspaper suggesting that Barack Obama could become president in the Lincoln mode.

I don ‘t have a ticket this time, but I have a TV set.

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