UI campus prepares for Barack Obama’s historic inauguration


Teri McClain wears buttons and a bag in support of President-elect Barack Obama in front of the Capitol in Washington on Monday, where his swearing-in will take place on Tuesday. Alex Brandon, The Associated Press

By Alissa Groeninger

Like many of his fellow University students, Jonathan Hasman plans to watch today’s inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

“People are excited about (Obama) being president. He got a lot of people interested in politics,” said Hasman, senior in LAS, who is president of the Illinois Conservative Union and said he did not vote for the President-elect.

He said people are celebrating the process of having a new president.

“(People are) getting ready for a new president and a new administration…getting ready for all the things they hope will (happen),” Hasman said. “Whenever you have a new president it’s exciting. People probably felt the same way when JFK got inaugurated, even if you didn’t agree with his politics.”

Even though Hasman did not vote for Obama, he looks forward to Tuesday’s events.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“It’s kind of like the Super Bowl…even though the Bears aren’t playing in it, you still watch it,” Hasman said.

While many students plan to watch Tuesday’s events on television, 50 students from the African American Cultural Center are making the trip to Washington D.C.

“It’s important for us as a cultural center. We want our students to have firsthand experience in order to continue to press upon (them) the role they play as change agents in this country,” said Nameka Bates, acting director for the center.

The group plans to attend the opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. On Monday they will perform a community service activity in response to President-elect Obama’s call for service. They will watch the swearing-in and parade on Tuesday.

While in the nation’s capital, 10 of the students will be blogging about their experiences on the University’s Web site.

“The students are overwhelmed with excitement,” Bates said. “Not everybody gets the opportunity to be a part of a historic event. (We are) not just going, but going (to) bring something back to this campus.”

Jacob Crawford, senior in LAS and president of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said he will not sit and watch the inauguration, although he knows he will see clips on the Internet and news.

Crawford originally supported Obama and campaigned for him in Iowa. He felt that as the election went on the President-elect did not hold to his original, strong policies. Crawford said that he wishes Obama would call for an immediate pull-out of all troops from Iraq, which Iraq Veterans Against the War supports.

While Crawford does not believe the events represent change, he said there is definite reason for celebration because Obama will be the first African-American president.

The LGBT Resource Center is inviting people to eat food while watching the inauguration.

“(This is) something that we think is historic so it’s definitely worth our attention,” said Lyndon Stewart, assistant director for the center.

Stewart said it is an exciting time because the country has its first black president. The Asian American Cultural Center is using their weekly Tuesday luncheon, where they discuss political, social and educational topics, to watch the inauguration because they feel that Obama’s administration represents inclusion for Asian American people. Obama has appointed Asian-Americans to cabinet positions, including Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy and General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“It’s going to be the beginning of an inclusive administration,” said Sehjong Hamjong, program coordinator for the center. “For the first time in history people of color…are going to have a valid voice.”

When race is discussed in the United States it is a black and white issue and Asian Americans, among other races, are often left out, Hamjong said.

Samarth Bhaskar, junior in LAS and a member of the Asian American Cultural Center, looks forward to the inauguration, specifically the President-elect’s speech, because he said it is a move in a new direction.

“It will set a tone for the change in the White House and in Washington,” Bhaskar said.

Monika Narayen, junior in LAS, who used to intern for the center, said she was an Obama supporter and looks forward to his swearing-in as President.

“He can bring a different perspective,” Narayen said. “(He has) a more intellectual approach to decision making than we get with the current administration.”

She plans to watch the inauguration with friends and looks forward to hearing from her cousins who will be in Washington D.C.

“I think people are ready for Obama to explain to them and really honor their decisions,” Narayen said. “(People are ready for) a change of spirit, something more invigorating than the past eight years.”