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Taking A Train From Chicago To D.C. For Obama's Big Day


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News, with Steve Inskeep. I'm Renee Montagne, good morning. We've been talking a lot this morning about how President Obama's second inauguration is not drawing the record crowds that we saw four years ago. Still, there are thousands and thousands of people who've arrived here in the capital for today's ceremony - that all wanted to be here, just like the last time around. NPR's Sonari Glinton has traveled with one woman who made the journey for that reason. Sonari rode a train with her and 18 other - and others, rather, for 18 hours, from Chicago to here in Washington, and let's join him now on the National Mall. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Tell us about the women that you spent time with and why this trip has been so special for them.

GLINTON: Well, I took an 18-hour train ride with a group from Congressman Danny Davis's congressional district, and the last inauguration he had one of the largest delegations and this year it was about half the size. And one particular woman I talked to, Janice Trate(ph), her husband died on Election Day and she wanted to come back - she volunteered and she knocked on more than a thousand doors. She traveled to Iowa for this inauguration, in part to keep busy, but also because she wanted to honor her husband, and along with the many groups who've known the president since long before he was a national figure, wanted to come back because they say, you know, it's the second time that it's actually really amazing for them.

MONTAGNE: Right. And the home town crowd, that is always special. What about the feeling out there where you are? The sun has come up now, it's shining, hopefully getting a little warmer.

GLINTON: Yeah. It's not too warm. But Chicagoans are used to the cold. I'm watching groups of people stream in and volunteers are greeting them like conquering heroes. As they walk through the crowd you can hear them cheering as people fill in the Mall near the National Gallery, which is where I'm at.

MONTAGNE: Well, great, thanks, Sonari. We'll be talking to you later. That's NPR's Sonari Glinton on the National Mall. And we're going to turn now to NPR's Don Gonyea. He's at the Lincoln Memorial. Good morning, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi. We're right next to the Reflecting Pool here. It's cold but sunny.

MONTAGNE: It's cold but sunny. And what is happening there? Because of course the Lincoln Memorial has had a special place in the heart of this president. And also many of the people that came to the first inauguration.

GONYEA: It's not crowded here, I can tell you that. But people seem to be coming here on their way to the Mall. It's almost like they stop here to pay their respects. And people who do come here, they go up the steps, they go to that spot where it's etched into the marble, marking the place where Dr. King delivered his I Have A Dream Speech in 1963. And then they move on. They also obviously take special meaning from the fact that this inauguration is happening on Martin Luther King Day.

I talked to a group of young women from Saginaw Valley State University from back in Michigan. They'd come here. I asked them about that and one of them just said it's like it was meant to be. And she, she even started to get a little choked up as she said that. So it's - it's lightly attended on this far end of the Mall, but it's a very nice scene.

MONTAGNE: In that scene, I mean are people where you are going to be able to see much? I know there's giant screens.

GONYEA: They will not see much from here. But I suspect there will be SmartPhones and iPads streaming it. So anybody who wants to see it from here will be able to see it. But you have to go as far as the Washington Monument, which is, you know, a good bit to the east of here, to actually see the - the official giant screens that are set up.

MONTAGNE: Okay. Well, we'll be talking to you later this morning. And enjoy yourself out there in the crowds.

GONYEA: We shall. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Don Gonyea, and he's speaking to us from the Lincoln Memorial. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Don Gonyea
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Sonari Glinton
Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.