News / USA

Inaugural Festivities Put the 'Party' into Political Parties

Inaugural Festivities Put the 'Party' Into Political Partiesi
January 19, 2013 10:08 PM
Every four years, Washington shows it's a city that knows how to celebrate. The presidential inauguration is a political event, but it's also one of the most festive times in the nation's capital - and just about everyone can join in the fun. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the Sister Cities International Inaugural Gala in Washington.
Suzanne Presto
Every four years, Washington shows it's a city that knows how to celebrate.  That's because around inauguration time, the term "political party" takes on a different meaning.

People come from across the country to take part in inaugural festivities, including Burga Santiago of California, who is visiting Washington for the first time. She and her daughters have donned full-length formal dresses, and they're ready to attend the first ball of the inauguration weekend.  

"You really feel like this is a seat of power," says Santiago, who enjoyed sightseeing in Washington ahead of the ball. "It's not just a seat of power for the United States, but it's a real global seat of power."

But you don't have to be a power player to enjoy the city.  Anyone can buy tickets to inaugural festivities such as the Sister Cities International Inaugural Gala, a celebration with a diverse crowd.  Men in tuxedos and women in gowns and high-heeled shoes enjoy the live music, dancing, cocktails and plentiful appetizers in the grand International Hall of Flags at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, near the White House.  

"Oh my gosh!  We've got ambassadors.  We have the whole diplomatic corps.  We have mayors from across the United States, everyday citizens, citizen diplomats," says Mae Ferguson, one of the organizers.  "It's bringing people from all over the world together, which is what Sister Cities is all about."

Among the guests is Nuno Brito, Portugal's ambassador to the United States.

"We think it's a good way to promote dialogue and to promote knowledge among countries, and that's why I'm here tonight," said the diplomat.

Just as the Sister Cities gala brings people together, the organization links people in the U.S. and overseas to promote cultural exchanges and understanding.  The U.S. president has served as the organization's honorary chair since Sister Cities was founded in 1956.  

"Every president has always been the honorary chair, which is very unusual," says Mary Kane, the president and CEO of Sister Cities International.  "So we're celebrating President Barack Obama's second term being our honorary chair."  

Party affiliation is irrelevant here.

"If you're a Democrat or a Republican, the president is our honorary chair," notes Ferguson.  "We're just thrilled to be here honoring him."

As for gala attendee Santiago, she is hooked.

"I know I will be here again," she says, as the music of the Mood Swings Big Band nearly drowns out her words.  "Oh yeah, I will not miss out on it."

The Sister Cities International Inaugural Gala is just one of dozens of unofficial parties and galas on inauguration weekend. The two official inaugural balls will cap off the festivities Monday night.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs