A Chilly, Musical Morning As Inauguration Crowds Gather
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep at the West Front of the Capitol where we're awaiting President Obama's symbolic inauguration for a second term, saw a procession of wheelchairs a few minutes ago, scores of people being wheeled to a privileged position here not too far from the lectern where the president will speak. And we're hearing voices in the background, at least we've been hearing them anyway. Let's talk about that a little bit.
Audie Cornish, who will be co-anchoring our live coverage starting in a few minutes, who are we just hearing?
AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: I think we are hearing PS22, which is a student chorus group of fifth graders and they're actually located - they're from Staten Island, just a few miles inland from many coastal neighborhoods that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. And these kids are actually quite popular. They're a little bit of YouTube sensations, 50 million hits over the last eight years, if you can believe that.
INSKEEP: OK. Let's bring up some of their voices for just a few seconds.
(SOUNDBITE FROM MUSICAL PERFORMANCE)
PS22: (Singing) (Unintelligible) my life. Here I have to start again searching for the light. I thank my lucky stars to be living here today with the lights of (unintelligible) of freedom and they can't take that away. And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free...
INSKEEP: PS22, some of the voices that we will be hearing throughout this morning's inauguration. There are thousands of people gathered on the National Mall, maybe not a 2009 crowd, but a crowd. And NPR's Jeff Brady is out in it. Jeff, where are you?
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: I am about halfway between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. And this area, all morning long, we've been watching people walk past us, trying to get up as close as possible to the West Front of the Capitol. But now we're seeing those areas up near the front, filling up and folks are starting to hang back here and pretty far away from the Capitol Building, so they're probably not going to see the president, but we do have big monitors here, loudspeakers. You may hear him in the background. So folks are going to see and hear something, they just may not see and hear it in person.
INSKEEP: They definitely got the Jumbotron view. What are people telling you? I guess they must be excited or at least determined to come out here. It's a beautiful day but not the warmest of days.
BRADY: Right. You know, we were talking about snow yesterday. So at least the sun is out, but it is really cold, a lot of people bundled up, but really, very excited. I talked to one woman and she actually had a fur coat, but she was not wearing it because she wanted to show off this jersey she was wearing. It has the presidential seal on one side and the number 44. Of course, he's the 44th president and she said it was all blinged up with red, white and blue. And she was very excited to be here. She said she could barely contain herself from screaming, even at 7 o'clock in the morning when I talked to her.
INSKEEP: OK. Earlier today, Ailsa Chang was saying that some of the vendors are a little lonely, but apparently not all the vendors. This woman was certainly doing a little bit of business. Jeff Brady, thanks very much. That's NPR's Jeff Brady out in the field. Let's listen to a little bit more of the singing here before we go away.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL PERFORMANCE)
PS22: (Singing) America, America God's shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
INSKEEP: PS22 this morning. And, Audie Cornish, we're reminded that although this is at the end of a partisan campaign, there are partisan battles to come very quickly over the debt ceiling and many other things...
CORNISH: Yeah, I think in just a few weeks, right?
INSKEEP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe minutes, maybe minutes. This is a national moment. This is a civic moment for people of all parties or all political beliefs.
CORNISH: It is, it is. It's interesting looking over the crowd now, the U.S. Marine Band is just starting to fill in, sousaphones up, is a good time, right? We're getting close to the time. But I'm also struck at seeing the families that were coming in, in a way. I mean, it's pretty early to be bringing your kids out, but there are still people who do that because they think that this is a valuable event.
CORNISH: And a legacy that they want to pass on.
INSKEEP: OK. That's NPR's Audie Cornish. She's the new co-host of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Welcome, by the way, to that job. We're looking forward to hearing more and more...
CORNISH: Oh, thank you. It's a bit of a hazing, I think.
INSKEEP: Hazing? Yeah, exactly. Hours and hours in the cold, that's what you get to do. We'll have live coverage beginning in just a few minutes. Renee, let's go back to you in the studio.