Think of it like an episode of Downton Abbey. While the folks upstairs have had their fun and run off to bed, the folks downstairs have their drinks and toast to the fact that they got it all done. Such was the staff-only inauguration ball held on Tuesday night, a day after all the other tuxedo-riddled inauguration balls. You can think of those as contributor balls, donor balls, politico balls or elite balls. The fact of the matter is, though, that if you worked on the Obama campaign, if you actually put your nose to the grindstone in an effort to get the president elected, you get your own ball. And Lady Gaga is the emcee.
Since the event was private, the details of the staff ball are scarce, but they're pithy. The White House Press Pool reports that the Obamas showed up with a humble demeanor and a fun-loving attitude. "You all clean up pretty good," President Obama said as he took the stage with the First Lady. "My main job here tonight is really simple," he continued. "It's just to say thank you. All of you have come to represent for me and Michelle our deepest hopes for America. The average age here is probably around 20 something. And that's only because I'm here, which brings the average age up, quite a bit …" Obama added, somewhat assertively, "It makes me know that America's future is in good hands. As long as all of you understand the immense and incredible power that you possess when you work together, when you join voices."
Have you heard that our president is charming? Standby for the rest of his moment in the spotlight. Obama told the crowd that they'd be privy to a performance from a "couple of people who are pretty good musicians -- Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett." (Emphasis ours.) When Michelle started to dance to the background music, Obama chimed in, "It's been a long weekend. She's getting a little silly now." And a long weekend it has been. What better way to cap it off -- on a Tuesday no less -- than see the President and First Lady pay tribute to the staff that helped them return to the inaugural stage four year after their first, historic moment up there.
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Lady Gaga did perform (see below) as did Tony Bennet. The Obama campaign staff also showed up, thanks in part to the $10 ticket price. And on a more somber note, the president paid his respects to Alex Orkrent, a staffer who passed away at the Obama headquarters in July. "Alex was one of you," Obama said. "This incredibly thoughtful, talented, compassionate, caring young person who decided to get involved because he thought he could make a difference. And tragically, he ended up leaving us while working on the campaign … It was heartbreaking. It reminded us of how precious our time on this Earth is."
The sentiment, in its own way, also reminded many of how this political process can bring out the best in us. Regardless of your politica persuasion, you should be inspired by this work, these people who devoted months if not years of their lives to a political mission that they believe in. Shoot, at the very least you should raise a glass and pump a fist, which is about all the Obama staff really wants to do after another historical victory.