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A presidential roast and toast, 365 days apart

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A cookie in the spirit of the moment at the post-inauguration Green Ball in Washington D.C.
Photo: Melissa Arseniuk

A lot can change in 365 days.

On Jan. 20, 2008, I celebrated the less-than-a-year-left mark for the country’s 43rd president at a community center in northwest Washington. The event was playfully dubbed “End of an Error,” and it was a lot of fun.

On Jan. 20, 2009, I celebrated the inauguration of the nation’s 44th president in a stately auditorium in downtown D.C. It was a full-blown inaugural celebration and was hosted by Google. It, too, was a great night.

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When you're angry with the government, cast its most revered building in chocolate and eat it.

“End of an Error” featured a chocolate cast of the Capitol building that partygoers smashed into bits and nibbled at slowly over the course of the night.

The country and its government were already broken, they said between mouthfuls of architectural chocolate.

At midnight, the crowd repeatedly shouted, “Fuck you. I won’t do what you tell me!” and sang along to Rage Against the Machine’s anti-establishment anthem, “Killing in the Name.”

It would have been borderline revolutionary had it not been such a good time.

Just 365 days later, partiers at Google munched on small star-shaped brownies covered in chocolate and danced to poppy, feel good music.

While the two events share a few similarities – both parties were political and both were held in Washington – they were incredibly different.

Washington is a good place to be these days. People are smiling, the social scene is hopping and business is booming across the city, as over two million people flocked to the capital for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

While the city (and the country) was full of uncertainty and unrest a year ago, it now exudes a renewed sense of hope and optimism.

Before Obama took his oath Tuesday morning, people from both above-mentioned parties were watching. I’m sure a few of them were among the hundreds on the National Mall who shouted and shot their middle fingers into the air when outgoing President George W. Bush flew by in a helicopter.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many of the same party people were among those who booed Bush when he was introduced at the inauguration moments later, and sang a few verses of “Hey Hey, goodbye” – as if the message needed to be further articulated.

“Na na na na! Na na na na! Hey hey! Goodbye…”

Judging from the people I’ve spoken to while covering the inauguration, Bush is not a popular man. Perhaps that’s why he and his wife left town so quickly and flew to Texas Tuesday night. They appear to have understood the song – they went back to where they came from.

Meanwhile, the new commander-in-chief has been moving into his new home on Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Obama has spoken extensively about change. It will be interesting to see how much of it he brings over the next 365 days.

There will probably be a party somewhere on Jan. 20, 2010 – but whether it will be a toasting party or roasting party, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Melissa Arseniuk

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