Campus, community watch Obama make history

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Sharing in an event watched by much of the world, students, campus leaders and community members convened Tuesday to watch Barack Obama take his oath and his office as the first black president of the United States.

Though Tuesday also marked the semester’s first day of class, students appeared disinterested in syllabi and new lessons, running to televisions to watch the inauguration between classes.

“Him being elected shows younger people being involved,” said Chee Loh, freshman in Engineering. “I’ve heard a lot about young voters not voting but this election is different because a younger candidate was offered.”


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Nation, world watches historic event

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Students watch inauguration on campus

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Silence overtook the Courtyard Cafe in the Illini Union at 11 a.m. when Obama rose to take the presidential oath. Students and professors, watching a large screen assembled at the front of the cafe, laughed as Obama initially stuttered with the words of the oath, and then erupted into loud applause and cheering as Obama completed the words.

“An overwhelming majority of people here had a feeling of hope in the air,” said Derik Strattan, graduate student in Geology.

“Though I was a little disappointed that people treated Bush with disrespect while Obama did not.”

The enthusiasm spread through the building, into the semiannual poster sale held down the hall from the cafe inside the Union.

“We will definitely sell out (of Obama posters) everyday,” said Marie Zubinski, sales representative for Beyond the Wall. She also said “inspirational posters” had also sold well. The company had ordered more posters than usual to meet the anticipated rush surrounding the inauguration.

Giggles and commentary broke the silence as students witnessed history at the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center. Only standing room remained as the first black president took his oath.

Vice Chancellor Renee Romano joined the celebration of picture-snapping students.

“It’s been such a great day,” Romano said.

The event was hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity as a campus event, while others in the fraternity and the University’s black community were present at the inaugural events in Washington D.C.

“We saw him become president-elect, so we should come together to see him become president,” said Justin Myles, junior in LAS and the Alpha Phi Alpha secretary.

“This is a central location to have it and celebrate history in this homey atmosphere.”

Femi Masha, junior in LAS and vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha got to witness history from the mall in Washington D.C.

“We had to walk a long way to get to the mall and there were too many people there. It was wonderful to witness history,” Masha said. “You can’t really explain it unless you are here.”

Jeffrey Osuji, senior in LAS and president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said he feels that the inauguration of President Obama is Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream fulfilled.

Myles was relieved when the official oath was taken.

“This is a very proud moment, and not just for African Americans,” he added. “Now we have a visual instead of the ambiguous statement that change is here.”

Sam Harding-Forrester, a University graduate, watched the inauguration at the LGBT Resource Center.

He said he liked that Obama talked about particular things he wanted to accomplish during his speech.

“It was a good mix of being lofty and grounded,” he said.

Although, most of the students at the center enjoyed Obama’s speech, most were not pleased with his choice of Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor who has spoken in opposition to gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at the ceremony.

Lauren Segal, sophomore in LAS, said she was offended by the selection at first, but she realized that Obama was trying to be inclusive.

“Obama needs to be stressing LGBT rights because he’s been in the shadows,” she said. “He’s an advocate for the rights, but he needs to do more about it.”

Local leaders also reacted on Tuesday to Obama’s inauguration.

“I thought Obama’s speech was perfect,” said Laurel Lunt Prussing, mayor of the city of Urbana. “It was a wonderful speech, and it certainly was an awe-inspiring crowd.”

Prussing said she helped Obama when he was preparing to run for U.S. Senate by gathering petition signatures and telling people about his work as the first black editor of The Harvard Law Review.

Champaign mayor Gerald Schweighart was unable to view the ceremony.

“I will watch what he does after today,” Schweighart said.

University Chancellor Richard Herman was in Washington for the ceremony, having received an invitation by local U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson.

“As the chancellor of one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities, (Obama’s) words made me feel enormously optimistic for the future of this great institution,” Herman said.

Staff writers Emily Herbick, Grace R. Kenney, Rachel Rubin, Sarah Small, Mary Beth Versaci and Jen Wheeler contributed to this report