Mary Orndorff Troyan
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Savannah Mitchell's goal is to see all the men who have served as president and are still living. On Monday, she'll check another name off her list when she attends President Barack Obama's second inauguration.
Savannah, 6, of Mauldin, picked up her inauguration ticket with her parents, Alvin and Katisha Mitchell, at Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy's office on Sunday.
Her mother had emailed the congressman immediately after the November election, making her family among the lucky few to be in the reserved sections of the National Mall for Monday's event.
Savannah is keeping a journal of her experience to report back to her classmates.
"It's great, because now she's old enough to understand and share this journey with us," said Katisha Mitchell.
The Mitchells - Katisha is an information technology analyst with 3M and Alvin is an electrician - are among thousands of South Carolina residents who braved weather, crowds and travel costs to see the inauguration. This inauguration is less historic than Obama's first, but enthusiasm was still high among event-goers.
Deborah Carr and Rob Roy of Lugoff stood outside GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney's office with their ticket package and talked about their excitement.
"I voted for the president in 2008, but when I pulled the lever this time it felt even more important," Carr said. "He has faced so much opposition and he's been disrespected beyond words."
James and Betty Gallman of Aiken drove about eight hours to watch the inauguration. It was Betty's first and the second for James Gallman, who attended Jimmy Carter's inauguration in 1977.
James Gallman, a retired educator, said he hoped Obama would use his speech to talk about how to improve education and prevent gun violence.
"Education should always be a focus until we do better by all our children," he said.
The chairman South Carolina's Democratic Party, Dick Harpootlian, attended a brunch at the White House on Thursday and a reception at Vice President Joe Biden's residence Saturday.
Harpootlian was at the Naval Observatory again Sunday for Biden's official swearing-in ceremony.
Harpootlian bundled more than $400,000 in donations for the 2012 Obama-Biden ticket, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In a way, he said, Obama's second inauguration is even more significant than the first, because this time Americans had four years of his record to judge and chose that record over the Republican alternative.
"This is a celebration of the reaffirmation of this country's willingness to embrace change," Harpootlian said. "It may not be the flash-and-bang and rock stars and fireworks, but this is a much more important moment in the country's history than 2008 was."
Obama got about 866,000 votes from South Carolina in the 2012 election, or about 44 percent. Based on the number of ticket requests his office received, Harpootlian said, many of those voters planned to attend Monday's inauguration.
The South Carolina State Society is hosting its sixth Inaugural Ball on Sunday night at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, a prime location at the heart of the National Mall.
The society is made up of people with South Carolina ties who live and work in and around Washington. Their black-tie party isn't one of the official White House inaugural balls but is the official party for the state's congressional delegation and anyone else from South Carolina.
About 2,200 people are expected to attend this year's ball, a larger crowd than in 2009, said Ashley Swearingen, a spokeswoman for the state society. The $135 tickets sold out early.
The band is The Voltage Brothers, and the event includes appetizers, desserts and an open bar.
The event has a long list of corporate sponsors. The largest donors are Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina; Fluor Corp.; AREVA Inc.; Honda of SC Manufacturing Inc.; the American Beverage Association; Duke Energy; BMW; Ginn Solutions and Sun Printing; Michelin; Richard Harpootlian P.A.; and Robert Bosch LLC.
This year's Inaugural Parade will feature two participants with South Carolina connections.
One is a historical World War I color guard from the Army Reserve's 81st Regional Support Command, the Wildcats, at Fort Jackson.
The other is the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission float, which will be the 15th group behind the president and vice president and their families.
The federal commission oversees the multistate national heritage area that recognizes the contributions of Africans who were brought to the coastal counties of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.
There's even a Gullah Geechee connection to the Obama family. First lady Michelle Obama's great-great-grandfather was a slave on a plantation outside Georgetown, S.C.
Michael Allen, community partnership specialist with the National Park Service and coordinator for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, said he's walked the grounds of the Friendfield Plantation where Michelle Obama's great-great-grandfather lived and worked.
Today, he said, "you can walk in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and see where his great-great-granddaughter lives."