Friday's inauguration of Donald Trump as president brought back many memories for me.
It was 40 years ago that day that I witnessed Jimmy Carter take the presidency from Gerald Ford.
That inauguration on Jan. 20, 1977 was different in several respects. The day was very cold but very sunny. The swearing-in occurred on the east steps of the U.S. Capitol where Abraham Lincoln, and numerous successors like William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and others, took the oath. Since then the inaugurations of Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama and Trump have all occurred on the west side of the Capitol facing the Washington Mall. I suppose the chance was made to accommodate more people.
I was 15 that day. How I came to attend was purely by fate. My invitation was not personal but the result of me landing on a mailing list. Possibly it was because I had written to Carter several times as governor. Maybe it was also because I had ordered some campaign buttons through the mail. The populist president's organization apparently had all supporters invited. I received my invitation and casually showed it to one of my teachers at Oakdale High School. Mr. Gary Linhares was impressed and turned to me and said, "Are you going to go?"
Attending wasn't even something I had dared to entertain. My parents weren't exactly made out of money. Mr. Linhares offered to raise money on my behalf. He went to some service clubs in town; then went to the Oakdale City Council. The council said they couldn't help financially but offered to issue a proclamation designating me as Oakdale's official representative to the Presidential Inauguration of Jimmy Carter. The money sent me on my way and my parents scraped up enough cash to buy tickets as well as a hotel room. They weren't about to let me go on my own, even though I wanted that level of independence.
We took a red eye layover flight to Atlanta where it was 20 degrees below zero. I remember the stores in the airport were selling Jimmy Carter peanuts in a commemorative bag. Carter, of course, was a noted peanut farmer from Plains, Ga. From there we flew to Baltimore and then bussed to Washington.
It was very cold and very slick everywhere. We slid on ice and snow and fell a number of times.
Thanks to our Congressman at the time, John J. McFall, I was given a great seat so close that I could see the whites of Jimmy Carter's teeth every time he smiled. I remember seeing dignitaries in former Vice President Hubert Humphrey wearing a fur hat. I could pick out incoming Vice President Walter Mondale, and of course President Ford and Betty Ford. I don't remember much about the speech other than Carter mentioning something about an old school teacher. In reviewing the text of the speech online, he said: "In this outward and physical ceremony, we attest once again to the inner and spiritual strength of our Nation. As my high school teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, used to say, "We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles."
I remember seeing the helicopter take Gerald Ford, our first unelected president, out of the D.C.
McFall had invited me and my dad and mom to attend a reception inside the toasty House Office Building. I remember John Garamendi's young son running around playing with his food. Garamendi was our California State Senator at the time and is now a congressman. Inside the room was a TV with live broadcasts of the parade. My jaw dropped when I saw Jimmy and Rosalyn walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. It was too late to try to get over there.
Jimmy Carter pledged to be compassionate and strong. He championed human rights. He said "We are a proudly idealistic nation, but let no one confuse our idealism with weakness." There was so much hope that day. Despite the administration getting off to a grand stand, Carter was seen as a failure of a president. He was seen as a huge presidential wimp.
We had fuel shortages and long gas lines. His energy policy was to rely on foreign oil instead of pump out own. Carter urged us to drop our thermostats and do without Christmas lights. He gave away our Panama Canal. He would later address the malaise that gripped the nation in almost lecturing tones. When Iran took hostages, Carter did a lot of talking. His move to get the hostages released ended when Army choppers crashed and burned in the desert. Reagan comes in and threatens to carpet bomb them and they are released the day he takes over. It seemed Carter couldn't get anything right.
By the time Carter made it to Modesto for a July 4, 1980 fundraiser, our president was seen as a weakling who was ready to let any nation run us over. It set the stage for Ronald Reagan to take over in 1981.
D.C. was totally different in 1977. We were able to go just about anywhere, including walking in and out of the U.S. Capitol. Security was not like it was today. Anyone could go to the top of the Washington Monument. You didn't need a ticket. We weren't under siege of nut jobs and religious fanatics.
The world was different back then. We had a lot more freedom. I've seen it change in my life to where regulations and laws and restrictions have clamped down tighter and tighter. In a sense we've felt hopelessness under Obama, who wouldn't even approve a pipeline for oil so that we could become more energy independent. We've watched businesses flee the state and country with jobs.
If anything, the Trump administration promises a reversal of restrictions that have helped make America a miserable and indebted country. So while there were a lot of people protesting Trump over the weekend, make no mistake: They are protesting the endless freebies that drain our taxpayers. Obama's legacy was a 42 percent increase in food stamp recipients, a decrease in home ownership by 5.6 percent, an 11 percent increase in federal spending, a 3.5 percent increase in poverty, real median household income is down 2.3 percent, and he increased the national debt from to $10.63 trillion to $19.9 trillion in just eight years. So why are the snowflakes crying? Why are women protesting in ways they never did under Bill Clinton? It looks to me that all Americans have everything to gain from a Trump presidency - if he does what he has promised what he will do.
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