EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of the Banner’s coverage of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, we have asked Kelley Chunn to tell the story of her trip to Washington, D.C., to take part in the historic festivities. Chunn is the principal of the local multicultural media and marketing firm Kelley Chunn & Associates, as well as a former TV news and public affairs writer and producer with more than 25 years of communications and public relations experience. For more information on her background and business, visit www.kelleychunn.com.
Someone once said, “You don’t take the trip. The trip takes you.”
My trip to the inauguration began before I left Boston. First, a client partner in Boston told me that she had turned down tickets from Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office. Her good reasons notwithstanding, I really did not need to know that. Next a friend called me from D.C. with a request for “donation” of $10,000 for a ticket to the swearing-in.
Never mind, I said. Not 10K. Not 5K. Not even 1K do I have. Call me if you need a volunteer. Otherwise, I’ll be on the Mall, watching it on the Jumbotron … and no, I don’t know any celebrities willing to pay $10,000 for a ticket to the swearing-in. Then I sipped some champagne in anticipation of a trip into history.
Leaving Boston from Logan Airport during the snowfall on Sunday, I ran into Maura Hennigan, former city councilor from Jamaica Plain and now Suffolk County clerk of court for the criminal division. She said she was on Obama’s original finance committee at the start of his campaign, and that she had gone to “Obama University” in Chicago to learn about fundraising. There, the campaign laid out the strategy that would eventually bear fruit, bringing in millions of dollars that many small donors like myself contributed to in small installments over the course of many months.
“Many years from now, when people write the history of this moment, we can say we were there,” Hennigan said. Amen to that.
Then we boarded the plane. Thank God for de-icing.
A night in Tunisia — make that Ethopia
Despite the snow, thanks to AirTran, we arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) safely and on time. Not wasting a moment, I immediately braved the masses on the D.C. Metro to attend my first inaugural event: the Foreign Diplomats Inaugural Ball, held in conjunction with the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethopia.
Getting to the ball, which was held at the President James Monroe Mansion on I Street in northwest Washington, was not half the fun. There were lines clogging the Metro stations and cops on foot and in cars at every intersection as I walked up I Street and eventually onto the red carpet and into the mansion, which is actually an historic townhouse.
Inside it felt like a night in Tunisia (make that Ethiopia). Soft lighting lent an air of mystery to rooms with tables laden with beautifully arranged, spicy Ethiopian food, women in gorgeous silk and satin gowns and men in tuxedos. I walked through a long hallway which led me to a tent complete with plush couches, more food, Perrier Jouët champagne and the peaceful sounds of the Sarah D’Angelo String Trio.
The Ethiopian and some of the Nigerian diplomatic corps were well represented. Our host was His Excellency Dr. Samuel Assefa, ambassador of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the United States. Also in attendance were the lovely actor Victoria Rowell and the gracious Congresswoman Diane Watson, D-Calif.
Among the evening’s highlights:
A smoky time at Ozio’s
Now, I could have left well enough alone and ended an elegant night there. But nooooo … I had to hang out at Ozio’s, which was around the corner from the mansion. Nobody told me that Ozio’s was a cigar bar, which was bad news, and nobody told me I’d have to pay $8 to check two small pieces of luggage, which wasn’t much better.
The good news, though, was that I connected with April Turner, a young public relations professional who planned the gathering in Ozio’s VIP room for associate members of the National Association of Black Journalists (meaning us PR and marketing types), giving us a chance to connect and catch up. Greg Lee of the Boston Globe was there, surrounded by a bevy of beauties. But the best news was finally connecting with the host of my stay in D.C.: Tambra Stevenson, a young talented PR professional in her own right.
By 12:30 a.m. on Monday morning, we had cabbed back to her home, where her other guests were staying. We talked politics into the wee hours. Then it was time to call it a day — make that “crash” — before the inauguration festivities really started.
Stay tuned for more inauguration coverage right here at www.baystatebanner.com.