Threat Of Rain Doesn't Deter Crowds From National Mall
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep, looking up at the white, cast-iron dome of the United States Capitol this morning. We're overlooking the scene where President-elect Trump will become President Trump around mid-day today. American flags are draped off the side of the Capitol, one of them with 50 stars, the other with 13, representing the original colonies. And the lectern where the president, the new president, will stand to deliver his address, is covered in clear plastic this morning because we've had a few spritzes of rain. And there may be a little bit more as we go through the morning. Now, we're going to be covering this live throughout the morning, and I'm joined right now by NPR's Audie Cornish of All Things Considered. Hey there, Audie.
AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: And Tamara Keith, NPR's White House correspondent...
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: ...Getting ready to cover a new White House. And let's look out over this scene here. When we look to our right, away from the Capitol, we see the National Mall which is a couple of miles long. The Washington Monument is out there in the distance, and it looks white, almost as if it's covered in snow. Those are like giant tarps that they put on over the grass.
CORNISH: Right. I mean, everyone's got tarps up, hoods up. I think we're all preparing for the chance of rain today. On the other side of the Mall at the Lincoln Memorial, there was actually a concert last night, a kind of welcome inauguration show very similar to what President Barack Obama did - and George W. Bush. And I think last night it was Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down. And the thing that struck me from that concert was Donald Trump's words where he said, you know, I called you the forgotten man and the forgotten woman, well, you are forgotten no more. That was the tone last night.
INSKEEP: And so now we prepare for the discussion this morning. And thousands of people are out there, and the crowd is increasing.
CORNISH: Yeah. You know, it's - the seats are empty right now. We're looking at kind of the reserved area, so...
INSKEEP: Yeah, the people who can come in a little later.
CORNISH: ...Those folks aren't here. But the people who can come in now, some of the early public, they are already pressed up against the barricades. They're already here waiting, right, Tamara?
KEITH: Yeah. And there are some people who have put out a blanket and are sitting down because this is going to be a long time. People came very early to get here to see this, to be close to, you know, witnessing history, witnessing the peaceful transfer of power.
INSKEEP: Can we remember - because we've been here for a couple of past inaugurations - this is a different inauguration, a different moment in history than 2009 or 2013, the inaugurations of President Obama. We were looking back at the speeches that were delivered on those days. In the 2009 speech, the president said, I need to speak with you frankly about the dire situation the economy is in and that the nation is at war. In 2013, the president was much more optimistic, saying the recovery had come and that 10 years of war - a decade of war - was ending. That turned out to be a little over optimistic as we've now learned, and it's a very different mood today as we await President-elect Trump.
KEITH: And he did tweet this morning, which is a new thing, and he says that the movement continues, the work begins. And this was in all caps with an exclamation point, and it was sent from an Android device which is generally thought to mean it was sent by the fingers of the president-elect himself.
KEITH: He sees himself as being part of a movement and sees that going forward, and it'll be really interesting to see what he says in his speech.
CORNISH: And worth mentioning because it's an extension of campaign language about the movement...
CORNISH: ...About look how far we have come, he's talking to his supporters still. And I think we're going to hear today also from protesters - right? - because they're also gathering at the gates.
INSKEEP: Well, let's go to NPR's Cory Turner, who is out somewhere in Washington, D.C. looking at people arriving and looking at the protesters. Cory, where are you?
CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Hey, Steve. I am between you and the Washington Monument. I'm on the Mall looking out over, as you said, this sea of white. It was actually plastic covering over the grass of the Mall, and I have to say...
INSKEEP: Protecting the grass, yeah.
TURNER: Protecting the grass, exactly. It's really sparsely populated right now. I came in the gates around about 12th St., which is just near the Trump, hotel about 6 o'clock. And a line was forming, security was very tight.
INSKEEP: Cory, I got to tell you, I'm peering out over the crowd as if I could possibly see you a mile or two away, but I assume you're out there somewhere. Go on, go on.
TURNER: Well, I have to tell you, I had to duck into the the media here where NPR has a desk because the music over where I am is blaring really loudly. When I showed up, they were playing Aerosmith's "Dream On" and it was hard...
TURNER: ...To hear myself think. But I will tell you, Steve, so I wandered around for a good 20, 30 minutes catching up with a handful of people. The funny thing is the first half-dozen or so folks I found who are were all separate all happened to be George Washington University students, most of them I believe public policy students, who were really just here to see what they could see. Now, obviously I'm an education reporter. I didn't intentionally seek out students, but I did see the biggest group I could find. They got my attention because they were all wearing these bright white little bags on their backs. I ran into maybe 40 or 50 students from a group called Pathways in Education out of California.
TURNER: And they're all, as it was explained to me by their chaperone Alison Gross (ph), they're some of the best students in their network of schools out there in California, and they all came out here just to see the inauguration, be a part of it. I grabbed one cut of tape from a student, Star Anderson (ph). Let's see if we can play that now.
INSKEEP: Give it a shot.
STAR ANDERSON: It means a lot because my family is so divided politically, and so like that - so to be here and to be a neutral party, it just feels so good to be, like, a part of history.
TURNER: Your family's so divided, how so?
ANDERSON: I mean, I got a lot of women right activist people in my family, and then I have a lot of very, very - like stereotypical Republicans, so it's pretty split (laughter).
TURNER: And what did they say to you when you said, yeah, I'm flying out to D.C. to go to the inauguration?
ANDERSON: They were really excited. They know that I'm making my own choices and I'm coming as a neutral party so they were like, oh, that's so exciting and I hope you see, like, Obama and Trump, and you see famous people and stuff like that.
TURNER: So, Steve...
TURNER: ...One last note, Star told me she turned 18 in December, so a little too late to vote.
INSKEEP: OK, a little too late to vote, but she'll get a chance to see the inauguration here. And we're at the west front of the United States Capitol. The inaugural address is scheduled to take place a little bit before noon. This is a president-elect who gave a dramatic and dark convention speech. We'll see what kind of a speech he gives now as he takes the reins of the country. I'm Steve Inskeep with Audie Cornish and Tamara Keith, and we will be having live coverage a little bit later on this morning. Back to you guys at NPR headquarters.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
OK. We're going to be hearing much more from Steve and Audie there from the Capitol as the morning goes on. Let's hear now from one person who supported Donald Trump and this presidency that's beginning. It is Chris Buskirk, He was an early backer of Trump. He's the publisher of the conservative blog "American Greatness" and also a radio talk show host in Phoenix.
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Correction Feb. 2, 2017
A previous Web introduction to this story misspelled Audie Cornish's first name as Audio. Additionally, a previous version of the transcript misspelled Cory Turner's first name as Corey.