The realities facing the new administration have taken over the media headlines, but for one magical day—Tuesday, January 20—North Central College celebrated the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama along with the rest of the world.
On campus, gatherings were held in several locations, including Meiley-Swallow Hall where students, staff and faculty filled the Thrust Theatre and watched the wall-size projection screen with cheers, clapping and standing ovations. Afterward, a faculty panel, along with President Hal Wilde, shared their insights about the historic occasion. “On this day in history, we changed what it means to be an American,” said Ann Durkin Keating, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professor of History.
“At last we have a president who believes in the power of words,” said Jennifer Jackson, professor of English. Added Stephen Maynard Caliendo, associate professor of political science, “Today is truly a new day—race is not a barrier to the country’s highest office.”
Several people with ties to the College were able to witness the inaugural events firsthand. Trustee Esther Benjamin ’90 joined in the festivities, including the Mid-Atlantic Ball, after serving on a 10-member presidential transition team for global development. The team made recommendations on topics like foreign policy, economic development, education and financial assistance related to developing countries.
Other trustees on hand for inauguration events included Pat Pulido Sanchez, Holly Humphrey ’79 and Robert Wislow ’67, who also shared the presidential train ride to Washington, D.C.
Andrea Ayres ’07 attended the inauguration as a former Obama campaign field organizer based in Jefferson County, CO. “As I stood next to fellow campaign staffers on the frozen hill of the U.S. Capitol, I couldn’t help but look around in awe,” she said. “Thinking about the past year and a half, I know how truly blessed I am to have worked on a political campaign that has rewritten the political paradigm. It wasn’t hyperbole, everyone who worked on this campaign knew this was so much bigger than themselves.”
Witnessing the event in person “was so much better than on television,” said Julie Saflarski ’10, who was attending a leadership conference in Washington, D.C. “At times the cheers were so loud I thought I’d go deaf.”
Scott Gabbert, associate director of undergraduate advising, scored tickets for the inauguration from his Congressional office after he made a request last October. “Looking at the Capitol and hearing the actual inauguration going on, it was hard to put it into words,” said Gabbert, who drove to the nation’s capital, with his wife, Jill. “It was hard to take it all in.”
It took more than five hours for Renard Jackson, assistant professor of education, to clear security and find his seat that morning. “When Obama raised his hand to take the oath, the most amazing hush fell over the crowd,” he says. “We knew we were about to witness something amazing and it was worth the price of standing in line.”
North Central NOW Winter 2009