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Carbon County resident shares experiences at presidential inauguration

President Barack Obama delivers his inaugural speech as Bill Tandy of Price looks on from the crowd.
William Tandy and his wife Rajeanna stand with the other individuals selected to join the event due to the excellence of their essays.
Marine One carries outgoing President George W. Bush away from the inauguration ceremonies following Obama's oath and speech.

Sun Advocate community editor

After following the 2008 presidential campaign closely and receiving electronic correspondence from both sides of the isle, Price resident Bill Tandy became aware of an essay contest through an email sent out by Barack Obama's camp.

Thinking more about showing his appreciation than winning, Tandy sat down and wrote a short, two paragraph letter detailing his support for the newly elected president.

Several weeks and two telephone calls later, the Price resident was on his way to Washington, D.C.

"I heard about the essay contest because I got regular emails from both sides of the campaign as I searched for information about each candidate," explained Tandy. "I got an email detailing the contest and thought, why not. I didn't expect to win, I just wanted to give my support. I got a call on Jan. 13 telling me I was a finalist and was asked for further information about myself so that the secret service could conduct a background check. Then on Jan. 14, we found out for sure we were going."

The retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel's essay was one of 10 selected from more than 250,000 submitted and it earned him a trip to see the 44th president of the U.S. inducted into office. The Price resident and his wife had all major expenses paid for their attendance at the Sunday concert, several dinners, the parade, the inaugural event and the neighborhood ball.

"We stayed right downtown near Capital Hill," he said. "They really treated us well every step of the way. In fact during the inauguration we were sitting no more than 35 feet from the podium where the president gave his address. We could see him very well."

Prior to the inauguration, Tandy and the other essay winners were given seats at the concert presented on behalf of the then president-elect at the Lincoln Memorial.

"That was the first event on Sunday and, then on Monday, we went around town a little, explained Tandy. "We were invited to a dinner for Vice President Joe Biden on Monday night and I was excited to hear that, during the dinner, Obama was already working on a reconciliation with John McCain. They are working on doing things together already and that gives me great hope."

"Every time Obama spoke, he wanted to make sure that the country's citizens knew this would not be a partisan presidency. He promised that during his campaign and, so far, I have seen him stick to it," continued the Carbon County tesident.

According to Tandy, the entire group of essay winners were given excellent seats at all of the events.

"They gave us some nice gifts including a signed photo of the Obama and Biden families. However the logistics of the events were a nightmare. I don't know how they pulled it off," said Tandy. "They reported that were 2 million people on the mall but that wasn't counting the side streets. I would estimate that there was closer to 3 million in attendance."

Tandy reported that if there were any demonstrations at the inauguration he didn't see them.

"I think the people were just there to see a needed change that has to happen for this country," he said.

The only complaint Tandy had about the whole situation was the weather. "It was so cold," he said shivering at the thought during an interview in the Sun Advocate's offices on Friday. "I was so cold I didn't thaw out for six hours following the inauguration."

A recurring theme in the comments made by Tandy as he recounted his experience for the paper was the overwhelming feeling of brotherhood and humanity displayed at every event he attended.

"The most important thing was the hope that everybody felt," he said. "That is what mattered. One reporter made comments about vulgarities being screamed at President Bush and that was not the case. When the helicopter flew away everyone said goodbye and good riddance. We have suffered more than 20 years of lackluster presidents in the country. The Presidents that stick out in my mind are Kennedy and Reagan. I think Obama is going to be a President to remember.

Tandy moved back to Utah after finishing his military service, where his wife ReJeanna finished her teaching degree at BYU and now educates local youth at Mont Harmon Junior High.

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