By Amy Dalrymple, Kim Winnegge, Mike Nowatzki and Kelly Smith , Published January 21 2009
F-M area celebrates inauguration
Even first-graders knew that “an operation” – as they pronounced it – was a big deal.
“Because he’s the first African-American (president),” said West Fargo South Elementary first-grader Laura Toddie. “It’s really, really special.”
Watching the televised Washington, D.C., ceremony, they stood solemnly with the nation as Vice President Joe Biden took the oath of office. They clapped with the nation as Obama spoke. And they cheered with the nation as the 44th president left the stage.
“This is literally history,” South Elementary Principal Loren Kersting told students after all students watched the ceremony. “You will understand 15, 20 years from now how important today is.”
Millicent Peter already knows.
“Today is special because Obama is elected as president,” said the 10-year-old who moved here from Kenya a week ago. “People thought he wouldn’t be elected as an African-American president.”
The fifth-grade new American said watching the swearing in of the man who is well-known and loved in her home country gives her hope.
Alisha Ankers and Stacy Nicholson admitted they shed a few tears over their beer cheese soup while watching events unfold on the big-screen TV at Bertrosa’s On Broadway in the lower level of Fargo’s historic Black Building.
Ankers, a family law attorney, and Nicholson, her administrative assistant, planned their lunch hour around the newly minted Obama inauguration address. Both said it lived up to their expectations.
“If anything, he brings a lot of hope to the country, and he has to right now,” Ankers said. “A lot of things are going wrong for a lot of people right now all over the country, and he represents more than just another new president.”
Ankers said she was excited to see outgoing President George W. Bush and his father participating in the inaugural events.
“Everyone seems to be trying to make this a unification of sorts … and this country hasn’t seen a lot of that in a long time, in about eight years,” she said.
Cynthia Sims, a collections worker for another law firm in the Black Building, stopped at Bertrosa’s just long enough to fill a Styrofoam cup with ice and watch Obama take the oath of office.
Sims, who is black, said that while swearing in the nation’s first African-American president is “a good thing,” she didn’t treat it as a big deal.
“I’ll make a big deal about it when I see some changes,” she said.
Cheryl Cassman, who runs a massage business in the building, watched as much of the event as she could squeeze in before her 11 a.m. appointment. She said she’s watched bits and pieces of inaugurations before, but never followed one this closely.
“We’re watching history being made,” she said. “I wish I could be there, but I suppose we’ve got a better view here.”
Cassman said she has a lot of hope for Obama’s presidency, but doesn’t expect drastic changes right away.
“It’s not like he can work miracles,” she said.
‘It’s hope, it’s change’
Students at Minnesota State University Moorhead aren’t expecting miracles, but still have great expectations for the new president.
One of the messages students there wrote to Obama, which will be sent to the White House, said: “You’ve inspired millions. My only request is that you keep your promise.”
More than 700 gathered for a viewing of the inauguration at MSUM.
Students, faculty, staff and community members packed the Comstock Memorial Union Ballroom to view the inauguration, while some were directed to an overflow room.
Junior Suzanne Al-Kayali watched the ceremony with her mother, Barb Kayali, who took a long lunch break from work to be there.
“I’m totally pumped,” said the 20-year-old sociology major, who snapped pictures of the big screen during the event.
Many professors canceled classes or gave students an assignment related to the inauguration.
Members of the Umoja Student Association, formerly known as the Black Student Alliance, sold T-shirts commemorating the event that said “A New Birth of Freedom.”
Jered Pigeon, president of the group that is named after the Swahili word for unity, brought his daughters, ages 5 and 10 months, to watch the historic event.
“Even though they get antsy sitting in one spot, they can feel the energy,” Pigeon said.
Tenille Brackins, 23, a junior and criminal justice major, said watching Obama get sworn in meant a lot to her.
“It’s hope, it’s change. It’s very emotional, and I’m very happy that people accepted him to be the president,” Brackins said. “I never thought we would have a black president, and now I’m looking for more.”
Mark Keller, a mass communications major, voted for John McCain but said he was hopeful for the future as he watched Obama get sworn in.
“I really believe Obama is going to do a great job even though I didn’t vote for that party,” Keller said.
A new direction
The excitement united the overflowing North Dakota State University Memorial Union Ballroom.
Students, faculty and staff mingled and ate red, white and blue cupcakes as they waited for the ceremony to begin.
People lined the ballroom before Obama took the oath of office. More chairs were drawn out for people who were too late to find a seat.
There were several rounds of applause and cheering when Obama spoke of leading the nation in a new direction.
NDSU senior Melissa Delisle said she watched as much of the inauguration as she could before her next class began.
“This is a historic occasion, and I wanted to be here to tell my grandkids about it,” she said.
NDSU junior Zach Mathern said he was excited. Mathern cast his vote for Obama in the November election.
“He’s going to make big changes in our country,” Mathern said.