Kadian and President Obama

Kadian (in blue hat) with mother, father, sister and aunt at inauguration

Kadian (in blue hat) with mother, father, sister and aunt at inauguration

In January 2009, Kadian attended the inauguration of President Obama. He intended to take photographs, but sadly lost his camera. To capture the day's events, he wrote a story (see below). This he sent to his senator in West Virginia, Robert Byrd, who then forwarded it to President Obama.

The essay was also submitted to a young person's writing competition in West Virginia, which Kadian won in 2009. 

Kadian's Essay: The Inauguration in Photos Kadian Harding Grade 5

Last Christmas my grandparents gave me a present, one I had been waiting on for months, a digital camera! I was so excited about taking photos because my parents had just received news that we had tickets to what would be the most historical event of my life – the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

When the moment came, I took time off school, and spent a week in Washington DC. Once I came back home I had a lot of interesting stories and photos to share with everybody. Then, after math class, it happened. I was messing around with my camera and went to the settings menu. I thought to myself, “I wonder what format means?” and clicked on it. A window popped up that said, “Are you sure?” I clicked. Several moments later I went to look at my photos. NO PHOTOS! I took a moment to breathe in. Maybe it was a problem with the memory stick. After all, it was my dad’s old stick and was worn down. I turned it off and opened the hatch that carried my battery and memory card. I took out the card, blew it off, and then slid it back in. Nothing. I was depressed. I would never have the chance to take those photos again. But then I realized, I still had the memories in my head, and those are the pictures I am going to show you.

Photo 1: I had just gotten out of bed. We were sleeping at my friend Charlie McCormick’s house in Washington DC. My Aunt Jen, who is a flight nurse and was about to leave for Iraq, was sleeping on the bed. My parents were sleeping in the middle of the room in a double sleeping bag. I was also on the floor with a woolen blanket over me. Duke, my German Shepherd, was sleeping next to my parents. He didn’t know it yet, but he was the only one that wasn’t going. It was 6:00 a.m., and we took turns getting dressed in Charlie’s room. We switched on CNN where they were showing people sneaking onto the Mall. I laughed at this, because the security people were looking around as if they had fallen asleep on the job. I was wearing snow pants, thermal underwear, three shirts, a sweater, and a coat. My dad always tells me to put on more clothes than I need so I only had three layers on. Strangely, I didn’t feel excited. It felt like the day before my birthday when I know I should be enthusiastic but I’m not.

Photo 2: Now we had to face the challenge of getting there. Our plan was to get as close as possible to the Mall by bus. We walked a quarter mile to the nearest bus stop, waited several minutes until a bus came by, and hopped in. We were lucky to get seats because that bus was P- A-C-K-E-D to the max! I felt like a piece of candy in an over-stuffed piñata. I sat down on my aunt’s lap, and Mum said my sister and I should each pick a buddy to stick with at all times. I picked my Aunt Jen and my sister chose Mum. Believe me, you did not want to be on that bus. It was so full and hot that I felt sick.

Photo 3: While I was on the bus I remembered Hilary Clinton came to my home town, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, during the primaries. There were five thousand people waiting on the main street in front of McMurran Hall. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had to wait for three hours. I held an Obama sign which people didn’t like. An older woman in a black coat said to me, “Son, if you want to be up here you can’t have that sign.” While I was waiting, a photographer took a picture of me. I was wearing a bright orange T-shirt, a white baseball cap, and grey shorts. I was sitting on the ground with my fingers gripped around the metal fence at the front of the crowd. I had a bored expression on my face. This photograph was used in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, USA Today, and many other papers around the world. The caption on the photo said: “Children await the arrival of US Democratic Presidential hopeful HillaryClinton (D-NY) at a campaign rally in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, May 7, 2008.” I hoped that waiting for President Obama would not take so long.



Photo 4: Just as I thought I was about to throw up we finally came to a stop. Everybody streamed out of the bus into the beautiful but terrifyingly cold day and we leaped out. We walked another half mile going with the flow. We ran into hundreds of bootleggers selling watches, shirts, photos, hats, and various other objects that had Obama’s name on them. I bought a nice black hat and a blue hoodie for a souvenir, so that I could remember the day. We came to an enormous mass of people waiting to get in. We cut through what seemed to be miles and miles of people. It was really only about thirty feet until we reached the purple line. I thought it was ridiculous. This was one of the biggest events in the history of the United States, and it was planned like the organizers paid less attention to crowd control than they did to Michelle Obama’s wardrobe. I mean, how are you supposed to put three hundred thousand people through one tiny gate? They were only letting one person through at a time. Later, I discovered that my best friend didn’t make it through because of all the confusion. My aunt and I walked hand-in- hand through security. Charlie was walking behind me wearing his bright orange glasses. When he got through to the other side, the actor Val Kilmer came up and gave Charlie a hug! Val Kilmer backed off when he realized that Charlie wasn’t Bono. With famous people walking around hugging strangers I realized for the first time how big of an event this was going to be.

Photo 5: We finally arrived at the Capitol where thousands and thousands of people were waiting. Mum said to me, “Look behind you.” That was when I saw two million people. It was like seeing a forest from an airplane where you couldn’t tell one tree from another. Sprinkled through the crowd were jumbo-trons displaying images of what was going on before us. I wormed through the blue, red, and white coats in the crowd. Finally, I reached the front. There was nobody standing between me and the stage. Then came the wait. Three hours of menacing, back-aching pain. I was being pushed up against the fence by the people behind me. I wanted it to stop, but I knew it wouldn’t. Just when I didn’t think I could make it any longer, Joe and Jill Biden walked onto the Capitol’s white balcony. The announcer said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, your vice president and his wife!” I knew he was coming any second now..... “Malia and Sasha Obama!” Any moment..... “Michelle Obama....” And finally, “Ladies and gentlemen, your President, Barack Obama!” The crowd went wild as he stepped onto the stage. I was actually at the inauguration of the first African American to be President of the United States of America! I felt as though I was part of living history.

Photo 6: Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia gave us our tickets. I wrote a letter to say thank you:

Dear Senator Byrd,
Thank you so so so so so so so so so much for the tickets to the inauguration! We were right at the front of the purple section, perfect spot! We had a great time. When President Obama came out, everybody shouted so loud that you would think that people could here it back in West Virginia! It was such a great experience. I cannot believe that I was actually there! I will remember it for the rest of my life!

Thank you so much again! Bye.

Senator Byrd is interesting because when he was younger, he was part of the hate group the Ku Klux Klan. And yet, he was one of the first people to endorse Barack Obama. This proves how far this country has come.

So, I guess I have concluded, who needs a camera, when words can paint pictures? I am sad that I lost all of my camera photos, but I am glad to have the photo memories that will last forever.


Here are the letters from Sen. Robert Byrd


June 1, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500


Dear Mr. President:

Recently I received a letter from Kadian Harding, who won first prize in the 2009 West Virginia Writers Contest for grades one through five with his essay, “The Inauguration in Photos.”

Kadian asked that I share his essay with you. It describes his impressions on the day of your inauguration as President of the United States. I am pleased to enclose a copy of the essay. It is my hope that you enjoy reading one, young West Virginian’s account of this historical event, which left him with a life-long memory.

With kind regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

Robert C. Byrd


June 2, 2009

Kadian Harding
P.O. Box 159
Shepherdstown, West Virginia 25443

Dear Kadian:

I take this opportunity to extend to you my sincere congratulations for winning first place in the 2009 West Virginia Writers Contest for grades one though five with your essay, “The Inauguration in Photos.”

You will be pleased to learn that I sent a copy of your essay to President Obama, with the hopes that he, too, will enjoy reading your account of that historical day.

As a student you hold the future of our nation and our state in your hands. So, study hard in school and make the most of every opportunity that is presented to you to learn and grow in mind, body, and spirit. Your education will serve you well throughout your life.

With kind regards, I am

Sincerely yours,

Robert C. Byrd