Friday, July 04, 2008

Liveblogging President Bush at Monticello

From the air-conditioned comfort of my living room, I am watching this year's naturalization ceremony at Monticello, with featured guest speaker George W. Bush. Channel 29 (WVIR-TV) is covering the event live, with Crystal Cameron on the scene and the Charlottesville Municipal Band playing in the background.

Seventy-six immigrants are being sworn in as American citizens today.

Black-robed members of the judiciary are taking their seats on the platform on the west front of the house at Monticello. Governor Tim Kaine is in attendance, as well as First Lady Ann Holton.

The band is playing Ruffles and Flourishes, and "Hail to the Chief." The President is introduced.

Dan Jordan takes the podium. "What a magnificent day, and let's give a hand to the Charlottesville Municipal Band." He welcomes everyone on behalf of his wife and the trustees of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. He notes that we are celebrating what Mr. Jefferson "that great charter of independence... an everlasting and universal expression of self-evident truths."

Jordan says we "honor the men and women who wear our country's uniform whose sacrifices make it possible for us to be here today," and he singles out a gentleman on the platform. He thanks the President and Governor for being here. (Jordan does not mention that this will be his last time presiding over this annual event, as he has announced his retirement.)

Jordan presents Judge John Charles Thomas to read the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. (See last year's video post to hear what he says.)

The platform looks a bit more formidable than in years past. A black ruffle surrounds the stage, about waist-high.

Alice Handy takes the microphone to quote Jefferson, a few days before his death. She mentions the three previous presidents who joined us at Monticello to celebrate Independence Day: Roosevelt, Truman, and Ford. "Today that number becomes four, with George W. Bush." She introduces the President, who is cheered and applauded.

The president takes the microphone. "I am thrilled to be in Monticello."

Protesters erupt in heckles. Bush says, "We believe in free speech in the United States of America."

"This is a fitting place to celebrate the Fourth of July. Thomas Jefferson said he would rather celebrate the Fourth of July than his own birthday. For me it's easy: the Fourth of July weekend is my birthday weekend."

Bush addresses the new citizens-to-be.

More protests erupt in the background. Bush mentions the governor, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, and other distinguished guests.

More protesters in the background. Also applause.

Bush thanks the Thomas Jefferson Foundation for "preserving this treasure," Monticello, which he calls "the first western White House."

He mentions how "late in life, he founded a public university that has become one of the nation's finest, the University of Virginia." Applause.

"It seems," he says, that Thomas Jefferson "got away with delivering only two public speeches during his presidency. I am sure there are people who wish that were the case today." Applause, then more hecklers shouting in the background.

Bush moves beyond the quips to the substance of his speech. Text will no doubt be posted to later today.

Bush says that on this occasion, "we pay tribute to the brave men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America." Great applause, standing ovation (even from the judges, who should know better).

Loud hecklers in the background. Apparently David Swanson did a good job in organizing.

"This love of liberty is what binds our nation together," says Bush.

Bush mentions a Burmese immigrant who lives in Charlottesville. "The desire for freedom burns inside every man, woman, and child."

"I wish you all a happy Fourth of July. Thanks for inviting me.... May God continue to bless the United States of America." Speech ends. It was short; shorter than 15 minutes.

The Clerk of the Court opens the session. Judge James B. Jones is presiding and takes the microphone. It looks like J. Harvie Wilkinson is sitting to his right and behind the podium.

The names of the new citizens are read out. The immigrants walk up to the platform as their names are read. You have to give the clerk credit for pronouncing all those names in unusual languages.

The list of names is long.

Judge Jones administers the oath of citizenship, which is much wordier than the oath of office taken by the President on Inauguration Day. (Perhaps ironically, because the President is required to be native-born, he never has to take the oath of citizenship.)

Judge Jones declares the immigrants to be "citizens of the United States of America." Lengthy applause from the crowd. He invites the President to assist him in welcoming the new citizens.

Each new citizen walks across the stage to shake the President's hand and receive the certificate of citizenship. The Charlottesville Municipal Band begins to play a medley of Irving Berlin songs, starting with "This Is the Army."

The president poses for photos with some of the new Americans.

Shane Edinger and Steve Rappaport of Channel 29 provide color commentary from the studio. It reminds me of coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

President Bush looks like he's really in his element. There's no doubt that he enjoys meeting and chatting with each of these new citizens. He's all smiles, standing tall, shoulders broad. For their part, the new citizens are beaming.

Edinger notes that the President flew in on Marine One today, landed at Monticello High School and then took a motorcade to Monticello from there.

Steve Rappaport mentions that Channel 29 meteorologist Clayton Stiver is a member of the Charlottesville Municipal Band.

The presentation of certificates ends. Judge Jones says "ladies and gentlemen, we can now truly address you as 'our fellow citizens.'"

Jones mentions the other judges on the platform: Wilkinson, Judge Allison Duncan from Raleigh, Judge Sam Wilson from Western District in Roanoke, Judge Norman Moon from Lynchburg, Judge Glen Conrad, Judge Jim Turk from Radford, Judge Dan P. Jordan III of the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson. "He is the son of our beloved Dan Jordan." Judge Crigler of Charlottesville, Judge William Webb from the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Judge Jones asks Judge Wilkinson to say a few words.

Wilkinson: "I want to welcome our new citizens. I feel like giving each and every one of you a big bear hug... We couldn't be happier to see you.

"It's such a pleasure to see the president on this Independence Day. He and I were at college together and I can tell you that he was widely liked and widely admired.

"This is Dan Jordan's last naturalization ceremony as president of Monticello, and that hardly seems possible. He's been here for 25 years and he has enhanced Thomas Jefferson's legacy in the most magnificent way. He's faced some difficult and delicate controversies and he's met them with a healing and inclusive spirit....

"This is a day of family pride...

"Do you know what my favorite part of the Fourth of July is? Do you think it's the fireworks, perhaps? I love fireworks.... But as much as I love fireworks, that's not my favorite part of the Fourth of July.

"Do you think my favorite part of the Fourth of July is the Charlottesville Municipal Band?...

"I love to see the Pledge of Allegiance ... I particularly admire the Boy Scouts because I wanted to be an Eagle Scout, but I stopped at being a Tenderfoot. I couldn't tie the knots....

"The favorite part of my day is the chance to hear from you, the new citizens, because of everything you did and went through to get here. Think of all those documents you had to fill out. We had an expression in the Army called 'hurry up and wait.'...

"The wait is over now, and here you are. I want to express my appreciation to the senior citizens among you, who have waited all their lives for this day, and for those young folks....

"It's a two-way street. It's not about us telling you what America means to you. It's about America in your own words. So if some of you would ... tell us what it means to you to be here today, to say a few words about America from your heart. You might think, 'well, the President's here, I might be embarrassed'... but don't be embarrassed. If you speak from your heart, you'll do just fine.

"Congratulations to each and every one of you."

Judge Jones notes that it has been the tradition to ask the new citizens to say a few words, and invites them to come to the microphone.

Mary McFadyen (sp?) came to the United States from Scotland over 30 years ago. She is the first to take the microphone. She thanks her friends and neighbors from Herndon, Virginia. She thanks the President for giving her the inspiration to complete the naturalization process.

A man takes the microphone and says, "I am proud to be an American."

Zenia Diaz (sp?) from El Salvador says "I came here when I was ten years old, I have lived here half my life.... I am very happy and I am speechless."

A man with an unspellable name from India says "It is a great opportunity to be an American."

Another former Indian citizen says he came here to seek "a better life for my family." "Some people don't like the freedom that we live," he adds, and thanks the President.

A woman says she has lived here for about 11 years. "What I am asking, Mr. President, I need Iraq to come back to peace with God's help."

A man from Burma who has been here about six years says "I am very proud to be a U.S. citizen. Thank you."

Jason Kim says he has spent half of his life in Korea and half of it here. "The reason I am proud to be an American now is that the United States is a country where God brought people of different races ... religions ... together."

Judge Jones says "Those remarks mean a great deal to all of us."

Judge Jones says that Mr. Carl Proffitt will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Proffitt landed in the first wave on D-Day in 1944.

The Clerk declares the Court "stands adjourned."

Dan Jordan returns to the podium. He congratulates the new citizens and their families. He thanks the President for his presence and his remarks. The President waves to the crowd, acknowledging their applause. Jordan thanks Judge Wilkinson.

The National Anthem is played by John D'earth. The crowd stands and is invited to sing along. (It's hard to hear if any of them do. The solo trumpet predominates. The crowd makes the right choice in listening rather than singing.)

Jordan says the program is ended but asks everyone to remain in place. The president exits through the house and says "congratulations."

Edinger and Rappaport come back to give their voice-over. The camera returns to the studio.

Crystal Cameron is back. "Quite a morning, indeed, Steve," she says. "This is truly what America is all about.... Hopes, dreams, and opportunities they could never even imagine in their homelands.... Quite an awe-inspiring morning... Overall the event was pretty peaceful."

Cameron says the president spoke for about five minutes and he was interrupted by protesters. "In classic George W. Bush style, he took it in and he smirked and said free speech is what it's all about," says Cameron.

The departing crowd closes in on Cameron and begins to interview individuals. One says: "People who stayed away missed a great day."

Someone says "it was the wrong place and the wrong day for protesters."

That's it for liveblogging. The whole thing took about an hour and ten minutes. Now it's time to enjoy the rest of the day.

Happy Independence Day, readers!

Update: The MSM is now reporting on the event. The Washington Post has an AP story on line here. NBC 29 has a text report here. WCAV-TV (another local Charlottesville station) has its report here. Business Wire has a transcript of the President's remarks.


Waldo said...

The protesting at this event should result the immediate end of the war and impeachment proceedings beginning ASAP. At least, that's how it was promoted beforehand by its supporters.

Incidentally, John D'earth's name is capitalized "D'earth," not "D'Earth."

Rick Sincere said...

Spelling correction made; thanks.

I noticed how the troop withdrawal from Iraq began immediately after the President took the podium. Peace has descended across the globe. The Bush legacy is complete; why bother with impeachment?

Kat said...

Swanson's remarks over at Waldo's post were simply over the top. IIRC, one of the commenters suggested protesting with silence, and I thought that was a good way to make their point without disrupting this very meaningful ceremony.

I wish my new American brothers and sisters a very hearty welcome; it's wonderful to have them!

Steve said...

James P. Jones, with a P as in Parker, and he is the Chief Judge.

And, well done, I looked forward to seeing another fine report this year, and you delivered.

Dave Nalle said...

A solid report, but I wish you inserted more personal commentary into it, like perhaps a critique of the speech. Your report was just like watching it on TV, but lacked the personal element which blogging makes possible.


Rick Sincere said...

Steve -- thanks for the correction on Judge Jones' name and title. I didn't have a program in front of me, and I heard him introduced with a middle initial that was a voiced bilabial plosive, rather than a voiceless one. Hence the "B" instead of the proper "P."

Dave -- I know what you are saying, but I was trying to produce an objective report, rather than a running commentary. Most of my readers do not have access to live television reports from local Charlottesville stations, hence they would be unable to see the ceremony as we lucky ones in Central Virginia. Moreover, it's hard to transcribe speech and comment on it at the same time without losing quality with one or the other.