WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mayor Rahm Emanuel returned to Washington, D.C., this weekend to celebrate the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, his former boss.
Emanuel was one of a host of local and state officials at the Illinois Inaugural Gala ball Saturday night, which brought a taste of home to D.C. ahead of Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in Monday. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were formally sworn in today, as dictated by the 20th Amendment.
The black-tie event, which took over two floors of the snazzy Renaissance Washington, D.C., Hotel, featured a sit-down dinner followed by a reception that included a “State Fair” room serving corn dogs and kefirs, and a “Route 66” room with Uno’s pizza, soft pretzels and beer.
There was also a silent auction with autographed items from Chicago sports greats, including Walter Payton, Billy Williams, Joakim Noah and Paul Konerko.
Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, told DNAinfo.com at the event that he was thrilled to be back in town to see the president be sworn in.
“It’s great, wonderful,” said Emanuel, who said he was most excited to hear his former boss’s speech.
“The theme is about being a president [in] a second term. It’s only — what? — 16 presidents out of all our presidents who’ve ever had a second term,” he said.
As for whether he’d ever want to follow in Obama’s footsteps and run for president himself one day?
“No, no, no, no, no,” he insisted to reporters.
“I’m not interested. I love what I’m doing,” he said. “It’s not that I’m not only not interested. I think being mayor is the best job promotion I’ve ever gotten.”
Emanuel, however, seemed less amused by the celebration. He was out the door before dessert was on the table, disappearing with his wife, Amy Rule, immediately after he addressed the VIP dinner crowd and before the party got under way.
Also on hand for the celebration were Sen. Dick Durbin, newly-elected Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a double-amputee Iraq war veteran, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was presented an “Outstanding Illinoisans Award.” Among other Illinois delegation members attending were Reps. Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Mike Quigley.
Durbin, the Senate majority whip, said that while the second inauguration wouldn’t have the same impact as the last time around, it was still an important moment in history.
“Of course it’s different,” he said. “But it is still one of the few events in history that you can really witness and be part of that makes such a dramatic difference, not only for the United States, but for the world,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Durbin. “I just hope it’s a little warmer than last time.”
The ball had a bi-partisan feel to it. Emanuel praised his former House colleague, LaHood, a Republican.
LaHood and his wife, Kathy, are "people who, regardless of party, have always been about Illinois and Illinois first," the mayor said in a brief speech.
Republican Congressman Aaron Schock joked about Emanuel's infamous predilection for swearing.
"In a town that's full of cynics and backroom deals and politics as usual, I have to tell you it's great that you brought Mayor Emanuel back here to D.C.," he said. "Can you imagine if we still had the swear jar that he had to throw nickels in? Well, we'd have the $16 trillion debt paid off in no time."
He stressed the honor of having an Illinoisan in office a second term.
"Many of you have come here to witness history. Monday is the day we begin a new chapter in our continuing affirmation of democracy," he said.
Jill Colvin is DNAinfo.com New York's City Hall reporter.