At 93, Inaugural Announcer for 11 Presidents Reflects on His Run

"I'm 93 years old. I'm cute, but I'm old," Charlie Brotman says with a twinkle in his eye

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Charlie Brotman's list spans decades: "Eisenhower," he says. "Kennedy. Johnson. Nixon. I don't think Ford -- because of the Nixon situation -- had a parade. But Jimmy Carter."

And that's just the start of the list: Brotman, now 93, served as inaugural parade announcer for 11 presidents, all the way up to Barack Obama.

"I did all of them, whether they were one term, two terms. I was always their announcer," said Brotman, a native Washingtonian.

He didn't start out with that intention.

"I'm not a political guy," he clarifies. "I wanted to be a sports announcer."

And that's actually how it all began. In 1956, the Washington Senators hired Brotman to be the announcer at Griffith Stadium. Brotman was there to introduce President Dwight Eisenhower when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.

Later that year, Brotman got a call from a White House staffer, who told him, "'You must have impressed the president. He's got everybody in the White House looking for you.'"

Brotman was offered the gig as "the president's announcer," he recalls, "and I was thinking, 'Gulp.'"

That was the start of a long run, with a simple philosophy:

"I find that my responsibility as an announcer is to inform and, in many instances, entertain," he said. "And when I say 'entertain,' the star of the show is the presidents, and I never want to take away from that."

But in 2017, everything changed.

"What broke my string [and] also broke my heart was President Trump," Brotman recalls.

Trump's inaugural committee sent Brotman an email saying they had selected a new announcer. The email read in part, "There is no question that you are a Washington institution and a national treasure. We would like you to come and be a part of the parade as announcer chairman emeritus."

Brotman declined the offer.

But it led to a heartwarming exchange.

After hearing the news about Brotman's situation, a group of fifth graders in Los Angeles sent him an envelope full of individual letters expressing their empathy and support.

"It really hit me," he said. "I picked up the phone and I called there. Then I found myself talking to the class over the telephone and then [asked], 'Are there any questions?' and every student had their hand up."

Brotman said it's one of his fondest memories.

This year, due to the pandemic, the parade will be conducted virtually.

"And I, from past experience, I know there will be a lot of disappointed people, whether it's the boys and girls, the students, or whether it just happens to be Mom and Dad," Brotman said. "It is quite a historic moment in Washington, and for us to be a part of it is exciting and important, so I'll miss it."

Brotman said he does have one exciting piece of news to share: He got a COVID-19 vaccine.

"I got a shot," he said, patting his arm. "So I'm ready to take on the world."

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