January 2017 Column: Kay Ivey Goes to D.C.
Earlier this month, I traveled to Washington, D.C., as a private citizen to witness the Swearing-in of the 45th President of the United States of America and the transition of power between administrations. I have participated in several state inaugurations, political conventions and numerous high profile public events, but this was my first time to attend a presidential inauguration.
I departed Montgomery on the Wednesday prior to the Inauguration to begin a three-day historic trip to our Nation’s capital. I was very proud to begin my journey aboard a Delta flight on a recently built Airbus A321 assembled in Mobile. The “Made in Alabama” motto was very fitting for my trip. Upon arriving, a short Uber ride delivered me to my hotel, where I joined Will and Lee Sellers, their daughter Caroline, her friend Darry Elizabeth Freeman and Steve Pelham.
On Thursday, along with many others, I went to Capitol Hill to visit with some of our Congressional delegation. My first stop was the Russell Senate Office Building, where the office of both Senators Shelby and Sessions are located. I was delighted to visit with Senator Richard Shelby and join him in an interview with WIAT. Alabama is served well by our senior Senator, who is one of the most respected and powerful Senators in the Nation.
Following my visit with Senator Shelby, his Chief of Staff Katie Britt invited us into her office, where we had a wonderful visit discussing issues important to Alabama and catching up. She will do an outstanding job serving as Senator Shelby’s Chief of Staff.
After leaving Senator Shelby’s office, we walked down the hall to Senator Sessions’ office. Soon after our arrival, we were greeted by Mary Sessions, who surprised us by inviting us into Senator Sessions’ personal office. It was an honor to see my friend and fellow Wilcox county native Jeff Sessions. Even though his time was very limited, as always, he was very gracious making time to visit. I am extremely proud of Senator Jeff Sessions. I am pleased that he will soon be confirmed by his peers in the Senate and begin the next chapter of his life as United States Attorney General.
After a nice lunch at the Monacle with friends, my group made our way to the Cannon House Office Building to visit with my Representative, Congresswoman Martha Roby, where we picked up the inaugural tickets I requested that she graciously made available. The line to enter the Cannon Building was long, but a necessary part of the process to control the access to key buildings near the Capitol leading up to the Inauguration. Martha and her staff were very hospitable and helpful while hosting an open house and receiving guests.
Thursday evening, I attended a reception hosted by the Alabama State Society and Alabama Power Company at Due South, a restaurant located in the southeast section of D.C. in the shadows of the Washington National’s MLB stadium. Most members of our Congressional delegation and their staff attended, along with many Alabama friends.
I began Inauguration Day by hosting a prayer breakfast for folks from Alabama who were in Washington to witness the Inauguration. It just seemed right to start such a momentous day in prayer, not only to thank God for his blessings, but also to ask for protection and the success of a new administration. I so appreciate my friends Congressman Robert Aderholt, Dennis Beavers, Chess Bedsole, Representative Jim Carns, Renee Gentle Powers and Lee Sellers for their part in leading the prayers and scripture reading. We were especially blessed to have Reverend Glenn Hoburg, former campus minister at Harvard, to bring a message encouraging all elected officials in their duties as leaders. I’m glad so many people joined us to pray for the Nation and our elected officials; it was a true highlight.
Afterwards I made my way, along with thousands of others, to the Capitol to witness the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the West Front of the Capitol, the location that was first used for the 49th Inaugural Ceremonies when President Reagan was sworn in as our 40th President on January 20, 1981.
Every four years for the past 200 years, America’s citizens have gathered to witness the historic ceremonies of the President and Vice-President of the United States being sworn into office. Since 1933, the time-honored tradition takes place on January 20 as required by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The presidential swearing-in is a solemn ceremony, meticulously choreographed, that takes place at noon with the flag-draped Capitol in the background. The President’s Inauguration signifies a national renewal of our democracy reflecting a successful and sustainable continuity of leadership of the world’s oldest democracy. The culmination of the President’s swearing-in is the Inaugural Address, where the President delivers a new vision for America’s future.
The true measure of a successful inauguration is the efficient presidential transition between administrations. President Obama modeled his transition efforts after his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and the transition his administration executed.
The transition of American Presidents and their administrations is the single greatest transfer of power, authority and resources known to mankind. The sheer magnitude of the federal government represents trillions in spending, managing millions of civil servants, and inheriting the largest bureaucracy in the world.
A new President is responsible for making more than 4,000 political appointments, including cabinet, sub-cabinet and White House staff with more than 1,000 requiring Senate confirmation. When compared to other democracies, America has the highest threshold for the approval of political appointees in government.
Following the ceremony, I joined the throngs of people to exit the Capitol complex and make my way to view the Inaugural Parade. I was delighted to be invited to view the parade at a reception hosted by Southern Company and Balch & Bingham at their offices overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. Even though it was overcast with intermittent rain, I enjoyed seeing the Presidential motorcade make its way from the Capitol to the White House.
A few hours earlier, a new Presidential transition was completed and now President Donald Trump and a new First Family were about to occupy the White House as he begins his term as the 45th President of the United States of America.
One of the highlights of the Inaugural Parade was the performance of Talladega College’s marching band. My heart filled with pride as they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue proudly representing our State and performing in the Inaugural Parade. They made a noticeable impact and received huge accolades. From all appearances, President Trump, the First Family and America enjoyed the Talladega Marching Tornadoes. I was very proud of the students and Talladega College President John Hawkins for their selection and performance
That evening, I joined friends for a quiet dinner near our hotel and reflected on the momentous historical event we had the honor to witness firsthand. Although I did not attend an inaugural ball, I was glad that Caroline and Darry Elizabeth had an opportunity to experience their first inaugural ball by attending the Freedom Ball, where they had an up-close view of President Trump’s dance with the First Lady.
The following day, as I reflected on the historic significance of all I had witnessed, my trip has come full circle as I boarded my Delta flight from D.C. and I was comforted to know that I would be returning to “Sweet Home Alabama” aboard another Airbus A321 assembled in Mobile.