January 16, 2009

The Inauguration Show

On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, we sent reporters out all over the country to talk to people about how they're feeling about this new president. Do they believe things will change? Do they think there'll be changes in their own lives? From dozens of hours of interviews, at a Marine Corps base and a button factory, at a New Orleans bar and a Florida town that used to be a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan, we heard opinions about what would happen in America after the ceremony on January 20th, 2009.

Barack and Michelle Obama cookies by David Ellis Dickerson


Back in November, two weeks after he was elected president, Barack Obama delivered a pre-taped speech to an international conference on global warming that was convened in Los Angeles by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It wasn't Obama's most important speech, but the effect it had on the audience was profound—mostly because they heard it through the haze of the last eight years. Host Ira Glass talks about how so many people right now are having these ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead moments. And how the entire country is poised for change, welcome or not. (7 minutes)
Act One

All Your Base Are Belong To Him

The newspaper Military Times did a survey of 2000 active duty servicemen and women, asking them about the new president. Presented with the statement, "As president, Barack Obama will have my best interests at heart," 36 percent agreed...43 percent disagreed. Reporter Peter Biello talks to marines from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC, as they were getting their hair trimmed at the Pro-Kutz Barbershop across the street from the base. And This American Life Producer Nancy Updike visits the office of a veterans' organization called the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. (9 minutes)
Act Two

Playground Politics

In this act, kids from the after-school literacy program "826" in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago and Ann Arbor read letters they wrote to Barack Obama. The letters are part of a book the kids published, called Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country. (3 minutes)

The book is available now from the McSweeney's website and all proceeds, every penny from the book will go directly to the 826 writing centers across the country.

Act Three

Lions And Lambs

When Barack Obama chose Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to give a prayer at his inauguration, gay and lesbian groups cried foul, because of Warren's past remarks about homosexuality and gay marriage. But Rick Warren's constituents—Christian conservatives—also got angry. Ira talks to Dr. Joel Hunter, who's having déjà vu over the whole thing. He's a conservative pastor who Obama chose to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. (7 minutes)
Act Four

Punching the Clock in the Enthusiasm Factory

Well over two years ago, long before the country chose Barack Obama...a company called Tigereye Design in Greenville, Ohio chose him. The owners liked Obama as a candidate and they approached him and asked if they could make buttons and posters and yard signs for the campaign and its online store. If Barack Obama could do for the economy what he did for Tigereye, we would all be very lucky. This American Life Producer Lisa Pollak dropped by the factory to watch them crank out more merchandise, just a week before Inauguration Day. (5 minutes)
Act Five

On the Court With the Clock Running Down

Barack Obama's transition team made it clear this week that the incoming president plans to order the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on his first full day in office. It's also likely that he'll immediately suspend the military commissions held there—the special courts the military set up in Guantanamo that have been widely criticized as unfair to the detainees. This American Life Producer Sarah Koenig talked to one of the military lawyers currently defending a Guantanamo detainee about all this—what's going on there, and what should happen next. (9 minutes)
Act Six

Vox Obamali

We asked reporters all over the country to go out and talk to people about what they're thinking as Barack Obama gets ready to take office. We got dozens of hours of interviews. We play you voices recorded by Davy Rothbart in Central Michigan; Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices, in Helena, Montana; Mia Frederick with WMMT in Western Kentucky; Glynn Washington of Snap Judgement Radio in Oakland; Katie Reckdahl and Eve Abrams in New Orleans; Michael Olson in Austin, Texas; and Bryan Parras with Nuestra Palabra in Houston. (16 minutes)