About a dozen men without work sat in the Open Door Community House’s gymnasium viewing Barack Obama’s inauguration on a television with a picture as out of focus as the economy which brought these viewers to this location.
Dick Cheney was ridiculed. Aretha Franklin was cheered. Obama was applauded.
“Great God!” one of them shouted as Obama finished taking the oath of office. “All is good!”
“He’s got the world on his shoulders now,” said James Childs, who has been looking for construction work. “I believe in him. He may fail but it won’t be because he didn’t try hard.”
Another unemployed construction worker, John Corriher, agreed that Obama has a “hard road ahead of him,” but felt hopeful.
“It looks for the first time like the whole country is coming together,” Corriher said. “I hope his stimulus package can produce four million jobs.”
Edward Venning, who has been trying to find a truck driving job for five months, said he never thought he’d live long enough to see a black man become president. “It’s good,” said Venning, “but Obama may need two terms to fix what he has to fix.”
Anything is Possible’
With the swearing-in still about 45 minutes minutes away, Patavious Sorrell of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity welcomed about 100 Columbus State University students who’d come to watch a dramatic turn in American history.
“Soon to be President Barack Obama has given us an opportunity,” said Sorrell, who took turns addressing the audience with Gabriel Hicks. “He’s given us an opportunity to look deeply into the eyes of our children, sisters, brothers, and friends, and tell them anything is possible. Now this is the same sentiment that we have probably expressed sometime before; except when we say it this time, somehow it’s different. When we say it this time we can say it with an overpowering confidence that can still the most timid man’s hands.”
Local NAACP President Bill Madison, who earned the name “Wild Bill” while serving in Vietnam, told them: “Write down your vision and follow it, and you will conquer the world.” He urged them to live by the words, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Students stood and cheered when Obama was introduced, and cheered again when he sought to dispel America’s nagging fear “that the next generation must lower its sights.”
Looking to the future
For 1st Lt. Jorge Damiani, an infantry officer at Fort Benning, the election of the nation’s first black president gives him hope that someone of Hispanic descent will lead the nation someday.
“Probably not anytime soon, but in the future, maybe 15 or 20 years,” said Damiani, 25, a native of Peru. “In four elections, there could be a Hispanic up there.”
The soldier was among about 20 soldiers and civilians watching the presidential festivities at the United Service Organization center inside the Suburban Extended Stay hotel in south Columbus.
Damiani also was the proud winner of a raffle basket featuring a USA Today newspaper proclaiming Obama’s victory in November, an inauguration badge and dog tags, and a Barack Obama action figurine.
But there will be no peddling it on eBay for a quick buck.
“I’ll save this for my 3-year-old son to give it to him one day,” Damiani said. “This is a piece of history.”
Downtown lunch hour
The sign wasn’t something patrons at Brother’s General Store saw every day.
Displayed prominently on the store’s front window, it read, “Watch the inauguration and have lunch and dessert.”
The Broadway eatery joined the many downtown Columbus businesses with a TV set tuned to the inauguration coverage.
As patrons dined at lunch spots like Deli Central and Houlihan’s, some focused their attention entirely on the broadcast.
Others, meanwhile, ate their food as usual, chatting with their dining partners without eyeing the news coverage.
About 160 people attended a luncheon Tuesday in the Sycamore Room at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, with five big-screen TVs spread around the room showing the action from the nation’s capital.
The lunch was sponsored by Minister Pat Parkman’s Working Excellence Ministries. Parkman also works at Aflac.
At the edge of the dais, a standup cardboard cutout of Barack Obama saw steady traffic, as guests posed for pictures beside him.
Praying, singing and a big-screen TV
Eileen Bradford, born and raised in Columbus, took Tuesday off from work to celebrate with a couple hundred fellow church members — and others from the community — at Fourth Street Missionary Baptist. “I’m glorifying in the oneness of folks who came out today,” said Bradford, a project manager at TSYS.
Bradford, who is 50, helped campaign for Obama on the local level. “I never thought I’d see it,” she said.
A large screen TV was situated where the choir would normally be. Watching was mixed with singing and praying.
The Rev. Johnny Flakes III, Fourth Street’s co-pastor, led the three-hour event, but kept in touch with his father and co-pastor, the Rev. Johnie Flakes, who was in Washington.
When Obama took the oath as the nation’s 44th President, most at Fourth Street jumped to their feet, clapped and cheered. “Thank you, Jesus!” one man said.
Dreams at food court
It was business as usual Tuesday morning at Peachtree Mall in Columbus.
Around 11:30 a.m., people started filling seats in the food court, although many barely glanced at the screens showing the inauguration. By the time Obama began his speech, there were about 75 people at the court.
Valerie Porter-Boyce, 49, was one of the few who watched the whole inauguration as she ate lunch.
Retired from the U.S. Army, she had planned to go home to catch the ceremony, but ran out of time while shopping. She said she never thought she would see a black president take office.
“If there’s something I want or don’t have, I can do it,” she said. “Anything is possible. I can go to school. I can become a doctor before I die... You’ve just got to go out and get it.”
Pictures go down
Portraits of former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were by the elevators of the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office for eight years. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, they were gone.
Their disappearance was nothing out of the ordinary, said Gary Mote, public affairs officer with the General Services Administration for the Southeast/Sunbelt region. Identical photos in buildings owned, leased or controlled by the federal government were gone by noon Tuesday.
“We haven’t gotten the new photos,” Mote said. “As soon as we get those, we’ll put them back up.”
Mote expects photos of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on walls by Feb. 1. The old portraits will be shredded.
“That’s just the procedures,” he said.