LAUDERHILL – Third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students at Martin Luther King Elementary School gathered in the school’s mall area for its Inaugural Ball. There, they witnessed a turning point in history—the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
The crowd, which included parents and teachers, rose to its feet in a standing ovation when Obama was presented as the 44th president of the United States. Many cried and embraced. Shouts of “Obama!” echoed through the mall.
“It’s educational, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students,” said Marvis Ward, the school’s principal, of her reasons for hosting the ball.
Like thousands of students around South Florida, those at Martin Luther King Elementary watched the inauguration in awe. Students here took a special interest in the inauguration because of the school’s namesake, King, and his legacy of racial justice and equality.
“The students are here in the exact moment that this historical event is taking place,’’ Ward said. “I wanted to do something profound, something that would increase their ability to remember this. I’m hoping it will stay with them.”
The school, located at 591 NW 31st Avenue in Lauderhill, houses 460 students. Two hundred are in grades three through five.
In an effort to seal the occasion as memorable, Ward encouraged the children not only to dress in formal wear, but also to register and have a ticket to the ball, select their meal from a lunch menu, and wear President Obama buttons and ribbons as memorabilia.
The ball then opened with a luncheon program that included singing, cheerleading and ballroom dancing. Each student then had the opportunity to be photographed in front of the school’s recently unveiled mural, Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., Dreams Fulfilled.
The inauguration was viewed live throughout the campus via CNN’s internet video stream.
Ten-year-old Moriah Eubanks said she felt that President Obama was elected because of his character, intelligence and kindness.
“That’s what made him the better of the two,’’ said Moriah, who is in the fifth grade.
In the presidential debates, Moriah said, “McCain was on television rolling his eyes and ignoring Obama. But when Obama had his turn, he showed McCain respect. I liked seeing that.”
Moriah added that “it was never about the color of his skin, people can see that he’s a good person.”
Shekinah Bryant, 11, said that having an African-American president is a “true blessing” and “something I thank God for.”
Shekinah shared that her grandparents, throughout the election, have been “quite emotional. They grew up in Virginia and Augusta, Georgia and always told me that times back then were really hard for black people. They said it was hard to find a black leader because people were being killed for speaking up.”
Shekinah added that the world will be a better place now “because Obama speaks from his heart. I hope that he is able to straighten America out. We really need it.”
Catherine McFarland, the school’s reading coach, described the students’ ability to witness the inauguration first hand as “remarkable. I have witnessed many historical moments throughout my life, so sharing this with them in a way that they will remember it always, is important.”
Raymond Thomas, a member of the fifth-grade support staff described the ball as a “positive motivator. They see now that if they put their minds to it, they can be anything or do anything imaginable.”
When President Obama’s inaugural speech concluded, an excited and pumped crowd at the school did the electric slide to the song, “Ain’t No Stopping us Now.’’