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Obama’s inauguration attracts more than 2 million

By Arooj Ashraf,  LaPrensa Correspondent

Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009: The last time Angie Gaston stepped out of Cleveland was in 1987. The moment President Barrack Hussein Obama won the election she knew she would be part of the 2 million in Washington, D.C., to watch Obama take the oath.

“I did what I had to do—cleaned houses and what not just to save enough to get there,” said Gaston. She arrived at the National Mall at 5:00 a.m. with her daughter and set up station next to a young man with three kids.

“He had them wrapped up so well, because it was cold,” she said. The young father’s story amplified the moment for her. His wife is serving in Afghanistan and he wanted his children to bear witness to the inauguration of a new Commander-in-Chief.

Gaston said the human spirit was at its best and souls connected, crossing the racial barriers, and truly embraced Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision. “The feeling of love was incredible, and I felt like King was watching us from heaven and smiling upon us,” she said.

Gaston wants to harness the beauty of the moment into a permanent friendship. She had brought along with her a poster for everyone at the inauguration to sign with their contact information. Her poster displays the diversity of the nation and the interest the international community is taking in this new president—people from Cuba, El Salvador, Jamaica, Australia, the Dominican Republic, México, Puerto Rico, and many others proudly inked their presence.

Back home in Cleveland, she is starting Signature Club; anyone who attended the inauguration may join, by sending in their photos from the day, what they remember most, and what issues are plaguing their respective communities. She plans to create a collage and send it to Obama on his first anniversary.

“This is a God-chosen man, he speaks from the heart, and it touches people and moves them to do something good,” she said. Members of the club will be cheerleaders for the new administration, urging them to stay strong when things get tough, “and they will get tough.”

Renne Ellingson traveled from DeMoines, Iowa, feeling lucky with a purple ticket in hand, expecting to experience history from a prime vantage point. Unfortunately, she was one of the 10,000 who got stranded in the tunnel now being labeled ‘tunnel of doom’.

“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” she said. Ellingson plans to send her congressman a thank-you note for the opportunity and a request to explain what really happened. “I can’t think of another president I would do this for,” she said.

Ellingson marvels at how polite, friendly, and caring everyone was regardless of long lines and hours of waiting, only to be turned away. “With the sheer number of people, of course, problems were expected, but the national guards and police did a remarkable job under the circumstances.”


Wolverine students in attendance
Fifty-three lucky students from the University of Michigan won the lottery from their residential hall to attend the inauguration. “I feel blessed to be here,” said neuroscience major James Stinson. He was ecstatic that Pres. Obama mentioned expanding college funding and allocating resources for research.

He was moved by tears Pres. Obama’s speech brought to people all around him and said he can only imagine what was going through the minds of those who still bear the wounds and memories of segregation.

Mary Wasgo, from Salinas, Calif. was jubilant, like many, that the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney Era was over. She jumped from joy as Vice President Joe Biden finished his oath, hugged her friend, and wiped tears from her eyes.

“This is the start of something great,” she said, admitting she was part of the ubiquitous booing chorus that had welcomed former President Bush as he appeared on the 20 jumbotron screens situated throughout the National Mall.  

“There is still a lot of hatred for Bush but hopefully people will translate that into productive energy towards Obama,” she said. Many carried signs of ‘Arrest Bush’; one man walked around with a neon green sigh reading, ‘No Mo Bushit’.

Anti-abortion activists made their presence known, with large banners depicting horrific photos of aborted fetuses and called on passersby to demand Obama protect the unborn. 

Gloria Estaban is a German student living in D.C.; she was moved by Obama’s speech, especially when he extended his hand in harmony to the rest of the world. “The world is really excited about him; they say ‘finally, someone who can lead,’” she said.

Lashawn Johnson was born in Pensacola, Alabama and he just soaked in every moment with tears in his eyes. “I wish my grandmother was here to see this and experience the love.” He bowed his head in prayer and rocked back and forth whispering:  ‘Amen!’ and ‘Yes We Can’ but cautiously reminded his friend the struggle for equality had reached a great milestone but it was not over just yet.

“Barack has so much that he needs to do, and he needs our help. We have to keep him in our prayers and hearts and help him steer this country in the right direction again,” he said.


Good-Bye President Bush



Then they were gone....





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