In spite of the winter weather, sold-out hotels, over-booked transportation and the predicted massive crowd of up to four million, many South Floridians are planning to attend the historic Jan. 20 presidential inauguration ceremony of President-elect Barack Obama.
The official inauguration theme, “Renewing America’s Promise,” underscores Obama’s commitment to restoring opportunity and possibility for all, and re-establishing America’s standing as a beacon of hope around the world.
Several South Florida residents said they will bring their children or grandchildren with them to Washington, D.C. to underscore the generational impact of witnessing the nation’s first black president take the oath of office.
For Mary Myrick-Saddler, 52, of Pompano Beach, the inauguration ceremony is “history in the making.”
She and her 17-year-old granddaughter, Dájonna McCloud, will stand in to represent four generations of women in their family.
“We may never, in my lifetime, have another African-American president,” said Myrick-Saddler, “so we want to stand in for both my 91-year-old mother and my daughter who can’t attend.’’
This is, for Dájonna, a junior at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, her first trip to the nation’s capital.
“I think the people who live there will be surprised when they actually see the number of people that will be there just to witness the first African-American enter the White House,” she said.
Dájonna added that she is looking forward to having an African American in the White House who will work at restoring the economy to the point that “things will be even better than they were under the [former president William Jefferson] Clinton administration. Hopefully, people will enjoy themselves and things will go well.’’
HONORING THE ANCESTORS
Jerome Hutchinson, 50, of Davie, said that part of his motivation for attending the ceremony with his daughters, Naomi, 11, and Kristin, 17, is to remember his parents, grandparents and uncles who are now deceased.
“Being one who is conscious of our history as African Americans, I know what this means to those who passed on ahead of us,’’ Hutchinson said. “And although they, through their efforts, laid the foundation for what has now transpired with Barack Obama’s election as president, by us making the effort and the sacrifice to attend, is a way to take them with us and have them share this experience through our souls and our emotions.”
Hutchinson, CEO of ICABA Media Holdings, LLC, a new multimedia venture that seeks to identify, connect, and activate accomplished black people around the world, added that he wants to make sure his daughters will see and experience a level of emotion from people who are there.
“That will reinforce to them that this is such a historic occasion,” he said.
Naomi, a sixth-grader at Florida Bible Christian School said that, for her, attending the ceremony will be a “memorable experience, one that will open my eyes, inspire me to do whatever I want to do in life.’’
She added that many people have probably said that they would “never live to see the day that America would have a black president, or that it would never happen. Well, now it has. Hopefully many will be inspired to become more devoted to what they want to do, love it, and strive to become a better person.”
A junior at Nova High School, Kristin said she is “glad my dad it letting us go,” as the sisters are both Obama supporters.
“I’m just so proud to say that I’ll be there,” she shared, “and that I’ll get to see it with my own eyes. It’s different, being there in person. I will be able to feel the energy where the inauguration will actually take place. It’s empowering. While there, I could decide that maybe one day I too want to be up there. With anything you may want to do in life, an event like this shows you that nothing can stop you.”
FROM SLAVERY TO THE WHITE HOUSE
Hutchinson added that for his daughters, he does not want this to be a “fashionable thing, but something of which they truly understand the depth, and what it has taken for African Americans to come from slaves building the White House to now having an African American there [serving as president].”
Hutchinson continued, “For my daughters to be in the nation’s capitol during the inauguration of the first black president of the U.S., experience the sounds, the people, the energy, it will have a much more profound impact on them than if we read about it in the newspaper or watched it on television. The fact that you can participate in a history-making occasion is an opportunity that needs to be treasured.”
Diane Williams, 51, of Sunny Isles Beach, said she is “absolutely ecstatic” to have the opportunity to witness such a historical moment on so many levels.
“I’m excited for Obama of course, but also for black people here in America, and for our country as a whole,’’ she said. “It’s truly one of the biggest milestones for America, ever, let alone for blacks.”
Williams added that she is also excited about the swearing in and what is to come once the president-elect takes office.
“While it is truly significant for us as black people, it’s more about the greater good that will come about for all Americans because of President-elect Obama’s anticipated strong leadership and non-partisan disposition when it comes to fixing our country,” she said.
She added that Obama has truly raised the bar on American politics, and has done so with “such tenacity, yet with grace and style. I don't believe we can say that about too many of our great presidents.”
Williams explained that the ceremony “impacts us personally,” as a people and as a country, and that it’s the “only event that I can recall over the last 30 years that has had such a profound positive impact on bringing our country together–black, white, red and yellow. I can't think of anything else that will positively impact so many lives over the next four years.”
Williams said her plan was to “just go up for the inauguration, but there are so many other gala activities to which I’ve been invited. To really be able to celebrate with friends and colleagues on a larger scale with all the pomp and circumstance makes it more enticing and a grander celebration. And you know we like grand.”
Photo: Barack Obama