Sunday, January 20, 2013

Inauguration 2013: The train up

Posted By on Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM

"I could not help thinking, my friends, as I traveled in the rain through your crowded streets, on my way here, that if all that people were in favor of the Union, it can certainly be in no great danger - it will be preserved." - Abraham Lincoln, at a train stop in Pittsburgh en route to his first inauguration


mo·tion [moh-shuh n]
1. the action or process of moving or of changing place or position; movement.
2. power of movement, as of a living body.

On a chilly Monday morning 152 years ago, President-elect Abraham Lincoln boarded a train in Springfield, Ill., headed to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. He'd spend 12 days traveling through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, gathering his thoughts - preparing to speak to a country literally torn to pieces and on the verge of civil war. Feeling a heavy load on his shoulders, he announced to a crowd as he boarded the train, "I now leave ... with a task before me greater than that which rested upon [George] Washington."

I am heading north anywhere between 60 and 80 miles an hour on the Carolinian, Amtrak's train between Charlotte and New York City. I'm on my way to President Obama's second inauguration. Flying would have been easier, the bus cheaper, but riding the train feels more romantic, like hand-writing letters, and American, like going to a baseball game in the summer. It also feels like the most fitting way to end a reporting process I started months ago when Charlotte was named home of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. After all, the president, who formally accepted the nomination at Time Warner Cable Arena in September, had taken a train to his first inauguration, as did his - and my - favorite president.

Train travel is a series of fleeting moments. It's peaceful, like listening to music is peaceful: You don't have to control it or understand it or try to guess what your window will bring next. You just let it happen. It's great for thinking.

Every mile and stop introduces you to new parts of the United States, and you're reminded that its cities are beautiful, in their own way. A patriot like Lincoln must have really loved that.

For him, that trip was the start of a journey. For me, it's a scenic way to the end.

Read about the history of presidential inaugurations here and Lincoln's train ride here. And check back for continued coverage of the 2013 presidential inauguration.

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