In his inaugural address, President Obama challenged all Americans, “to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.” For visitors at that hall on January 20th, a special, once-every-four-years program helped bring that spirit to life.
In celebration of the inauguration, Independence National Historical Park hosted a reenactment of John Adams’ presidential inauguration in Congress Hall, the very place where the second president took the oath on March 4, 1797. That was a historic peaceful transfer of power in a time when power around the world was transferred only through blood lines or blood loss.
The reenactment was coordinated and introduced by ranger Ed Welch. Performers included rangers Steve Medeiros (portraying John Adams), Paul Campbell (as George Washington) and John Wayne (as Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth). NPS volunteer and Eastern National employee Graham Delinger portrayed Thomas Jefferson.
Originally scheduled to be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the free program was so popular the park added a third, unscheduled performance at 3 p.m. to accommodate the crowds. The full house at each performance included some visitors with probing questions about history and world-changing events, including why the date of the inauguration changed.
This interpretive program highlighted the significance of a place recognized as special by the almost four million people who visit Independence National Historical Park each year, by the international community that named Independence Hall a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and by President Obama in his second inaugural address.