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Saturday, January 24, 2009

At the Inauguration

It was freezing cold but the spirits were warm. Inauguration week in Washington DC was something special. From the Inauguration concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the ceremony itself, the event was celebrated by people from all backgrounds. It felt it was a privilege to be there and share it with them.

The atmosphere in Washington was one of excitement and I could sense a real lightness of spirit. Americans kept apologising to me for the past eight years. Yet the mood was tinged with realism: there are many challenges ahead and they won't be solved over night, even with a new President of hope. Barack Obama made that clear in his Inauguration speech (and his speech to the Inauguration concert on Sunday evening) and it didn't come as a surprise to people.

Obama took campaigning to a new level, which by mobilising the grassroots (and learning from the experience of Howard Dean's campaigning) resonated with vast numbers of people not usually energised by politics. The next challenge is to maintain that coalition while in government. The White House website has been changed to reflect the new style but the test will be whether the interaction with supporters can be maintained in terms of meaningful conversations.

As I left Washington DC, I wondered what we should learn in the UK about how politics may be changing.

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