“Change has come”
Students winess historic inauguration
By Liz Bravacos
Erin Ogunkeye didn’t think the day would ever come.
But on Jan, 20, the Conestoga senior was on the lawn at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. with millions of jubilant, flag-waving people, weathering the frigid temperatures to witness the historic swearing-in of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
Ogunkeye, who was one of a number of Conestoga students at the event, said that, as an African American, the inauguration of Obama was of “special significance to me.”
“I’ve experienced racism quite often, so to see him [Obama] rise to the highest office in the country is pretty unbelievable,” she said.
After the conclusion of the swearing-in ceremony, Ogunkeye found herself standing within feet of a number of prominent Washington politicians. After receiving a lucky tip from an FBI Agent, Ogunkeye saw Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, the Clintons, the Bidens and the Obamas as they left the Capitol building.
“I was literally shocked after seeing the first family so close,” Ogunkeye said. “It was complete surprise.”
Sophomore Ellen Piehl, who was also in attendance in D.C., said that as the future of America, students should take advantage of the opportunities they get to take part in government, or at least get interested.
“In a few years we’re all going to be in college and worrying about jobs, so the decisions that Obama’s administration make are going to impact us directly,” Piehl said.
Back at Conestoga, students welcomed a change to their daily routine with the opportunity to view the inaugural ceremonies. The day began when the two anchors of
“Good Morning ’Stoga” spoke with special guest Tricia Ebarvia via telephone connection. Ebarvia, an English teacher, was in Washington D.C. at the time and shared with students the growing anticipation.
“The excitement in the crowd was palpable,” Ebarvia said. “Everyone was in good spirits.”
Within hours after the morning news broadcast, the halls had become silent as students found their seats in classrooms, the auditorium and the cafeteria, ready to watch Obama take his Oath of Office.
The viewing of this year’s ceremony was permitted during the school day because of its “historic and unprecedented nature,” former Principal Tim Donovan said. In addition, he added that the protocol followed on Jan. 20 will become a precedent for all future presidential inaugurations at the school.
“This period of our country’s history is a very significant time, with the War in Iraq and the state of our economy,” Donovan said. “The inauguration ties in very nicely to teach students about their role in our society.”
James Ferguson enjoyed the inauguration from a desk in his sixth period math class. As time passed and the ceremony drew nearer, he said that he could feel the anticipation amongst his peers grow.
“This inauguration was the biggest way you can prove we’re over racial discrimination in America,” Ferguson said. “It made me realize the importance of this election.”
Liz Bravacos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Printed originally on page four of the Feb. 13, 2009 issue of The Spoke.