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Party atmosphere in the nation's capital

   WASHINGTON - This is a lovely city of marble monuments and lush green parks, but it's not the sort of place that typically gives you that excited center-of-the-universe feeling you get in midtown Manhattan or downtown Toronto.

   Until now.

   Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president has transformed this city into one big party.

   Which is ironic, really, because you would think that the economic downturn would leave many Americans in no mood to celebrate.

   Nevertheless, something about Obama's election has inspired Americans to flock to the nation's capital in unprecedented numbers.

   Surely the historic nature of his election, as the first black president, has a lot to do with it.

   But there must be more, much more, that's brought this extraordinary gathering of faces - black, white and yellow - together in the same spot.

   You have to wonder: Could it be the audacity of hope?

   --- Jerry Zremski

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