An All American Inaugural Dinner, Part 2

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chile.jpeg

Yesterday, I posted sometime I had mostly written the night before, the night of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I was focused then on I believed the meal reflected the inaugural theme of unity and how all the different parts or aspects of America are America.. After a day of reflection, I’m seem even more connections between my chili and the themes I saw in the inaugural ceremony and celebrations. For not only was my chili made of indigenous American foods, but it included a rainbow array of ingredients–just like the inaugural program of November 20.

The virtual “parade” that replaced the typical parade that isn’t safe with COVID, let alone the riots of January 6, contained videos from all 50 states plus DC and the territories, and were an explosion of different cultures and expressions. There were dancers (the NC segment were cloggers from Boone, NC in the western mountains) and singers and visual artists and poets. There were also hockey players and horse riders and drill teams and military processions. There were young people and old people and people in-between. There were areas that focused on particular cultures: Native Americans, Asians, Afro-Americans, Hispanics. Likewise, the American Celebration hosted that night by the most soothing celebrity in our country, Tom Hanks, not only included performances from a broad range of cultures and musical styles, but included tributes and videos of “ordinary” Americans–the “TikToc doc” and other musical or dancing health care workers, and teachers and sanitation workers and truck drivers and delivery services. Together, they were multi-hour reminders about how diverse our country is, and how we need all those difference voices, all those different services, all those different passions, to create our complete American experience.

Finally, there was the visual rainbow. Of course, all these different videos had all sorts of different colors, from the people to the outfits or the landscape. However, during the official parts of the inauguration, I have to give it to the Democratic party women who made sure that all the colors of the rainbow were represented.

It started off with Amy Klobuchar, Biden’s one-time rival who took herself out of contention not only for the Presidency but for the Vice Presidency because she thought that was best for the country, who hosted the proceedings in a bold mustard-gold coat. Later in the proceedings, she was followed by the poet Amanda Gorman, who delivered her poem dressed in a bright yellow coat with a bright red headband (plus a ring from Oprah that depicted a caged bird, symbolic of Amanda’s idol and Oprah’s friend, Maya Angelou). Lady Gaga also wore red in her voluminous skirt, balanced with a bright blue top emblazoned with a golden dove.

The second and third generations of women in the Biden and Harris-Emhoff families also provided a panoply of colors. Kamala’s stepdaughter, Emma Emhoff (who is a textile design student at the Parson School of Design in NYC), wore a plaid coat with golden shoulder decorations, but ones that looked feminine instead of military. Kamala’s niece, Meena Harris, wore a beautiful green coat and gown, while her two small children (4 and 2) were dressed in fuzzy faux brown and white leopard prints. And then there are the Biden granddaughters. The oldest, Naomi, who graduated from Columbia Law School, wore an all-suffragette-white outfit (as did Jennifer Lopez for her performance). Her sister Maisy wore black, but she include a whimsical pair of Air Jordans. The youngest sister, Finnegan, wore a caramel-colored coat, while cousin Natalie wore a striking light pink coat.

The two most high-ranking Democratic women, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, went with blue, the color traditionally assigned to the Democrats. However, they both picked beautiful and unconventional shades of blue. Dr. Biden was dressed in two tones of what the news called “ocean-colored,” but I would call teal. Speaker Pelosi wore a lovely turquoise color. They were both light colors, and caught the eye in the sea of dark coats worn by the men that still make up the majority of the power structure in our government. So they stood out without screaming for attention.

However, the most commanding color was that worn by Vice President Harris. She chose an electric bluish-purple coat and gown by a black designer from SCAD (originally the Savannah College of Art and Design0, although it has other locations now as well). She had chosen purple as her signature color during her Presidential run to honor Shirley Chisom, the first Black woman to run for the nomination for President among one of the major parties. But in addition to that, purple is a reference to the Biden call for unity, since it is a mixture of red and blue. Her color leans blue, of course, but represents this administration’s commitment to work with both sides of our divided nation. However, it was such a vibrant color that you couldn’t miss it–or the woman who was wearing it.

But perhaps the most beautiful thing about that color was the way that it was reflected in the women sitting behind her as she took her oath of office. It wasn’t obvious to me when I was watching live, but after watching videos again and reading the news, it becomes clear. Three of the living First Ladies (Rosalyn Carter stayed home because her husband is almost 100 and really doesn’t need to be traveling during a pandemic–nor does she, as she is 93, while Melanie Trump flew out that morning with her husband)…all three of them, Democratic and Republican, were wearing purple.

Again, the shades were totally different, just as the women themselves were. Hillary Clinton wore a deep, deep purple that looked almost black–but if you look closely, you can see that it is purple. Michelle Obama wore a plum coat and pants suit. And Laura Bush wore a light dusty-lavender coat.

As is common with the role of First Ladies, none of these women got to speak during this ceremony. Nor were they included in the American Celebration that played later, in which all three Presidents offered support and prayers to the new President. However, these women are used to speaking out in quieter ways, as many of us women do. They know that their clothes can speak volumes. And I don’t know a better way they could have said to Kamala Harris and to Dr. Jill Biden that, “Sisters, we’ve got your back.”

So I’m so glad I added that purple onion and cabbage to my chili! For I, too, want to assure these ground-breaking women that I will do what I can to support them. Feeding my family rainbow chili is just a beginning….

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