WASHINGTON — Tennessee and Georgia leaders attending Tuesday’s inauguration offered new President Barack Obama their best wishes, honoring his historic presidency and pledging to work in a bipartisan fashion to tackle the country’s issues.
“The whole day, particularly when I was sitting up there at the Capitol waiting for the swearing-in, had this sense of renewal,” Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said as he watched the inaugural parade. “There’s a feeling that we’re putting the best side of our nation forward.”
But Gov. Bredesen cautioned that President Obama faces the burden of heightened expectations.
“As he said in his speech, we’re going to make mistakes,” Gov. Bredesen said. “He’s a very smart guy and very focused. I think he’ll settle down and make significant progress.”
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said even though he supported President Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., he was happy to see the historic inauguration. He said the peaceful transition of power — to the country’s first black president, no less — can serve as a model for the world.
“Our national character is born out of injustice being made right,” he said. “For us, the day after Martin Luther King Day, to inaugurate our first black president, it says the right thing to the world and to every boy and girl that if you do the right thing and work hard enough, good things will happen.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said the inauguration “measures the progress we have made as a nation.”
“I have great respect for (President Obama), and I look forward to working with him in a bipartisan way, as offered in his remarks,” he said.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said he looks forward to working with the new administration “as we address our softening economy and the impact it is having on our citizens.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he was a summer intern at the Department of Justice in August 1963 when he saw Dr. King give his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“The inauguration ... symbolizes both remarkable progress on America’s most intractable problem — race — and a reaffirmation of America’s most unique characteristic — a fervent belief that anything is possible,” he said.
Not all attendees had a smooth experience. University of Tennessee President John Petersen was turned away along with several other ticket holders before the event.
He said he is unsure exactly why he was not able to get into the event, but he said he heard there were problems with the metal detectors.
Instead, he watched President Obama’s speech at his daughter’s house in Virginia.
“It was a downer to have that happen, but it is an exciting place to be,” he said.