The booming echo of now-president Barack Obama’s voice carried to every corner of the University Union, from the San Luis Lounge to the Mustang Lanes to the downstairs lobby. More than 400 students gathered to watch the inauguration of the 44th President United States of America over coffee, fruit and pastries, and cheered as Obama came onto the screen.
Students in the downstairs lobby poured into Starbucks and Mustang Lanes, standing to watch the CNN broadcast. Video was streamed intermittently at each location, syncopating the reaction time of each audience. Cheers could be heard upstairs, followed by the delayed cheers from downstairs, where the stream times of the broadcasts were different.
Obama supporter and landscape architecture junior Clark Parkan came to the University Union to see the speech. Inspired by the thought of watching history unfold, he said he broke his usual routine and arrived just after 8 a.m. even though his earliest class began at 2 p.m..
“It’s a big deal and an important time in our history,” Parkan said. “I was really excited in voting for this (election), knowing you were going to be part of change and see it coming (together) is pretty exciting.”
Angela Kramer, ASI President, drifted in and out of the each of the rooms in the University Union adorned in a red, white and blue lai. “I’m thrilled I’m able to say that President Obama was inaugurated during my time not only while at a University but as student body president. I feel like we are connected in that way because we’re both presidents.”
When asked about how an Obama administration would impact higher education, Kramer admitted that she was not sure what the outcome would be.
“Honestly, I don’t know. We have so many issues with higher education in this state, let alone the other 49,” Kramer said. “What I’m hoping and what he said was two-fold: more financial aid and loan forgiveness for service for students who go into non-profits or education might have the opportunity to have their loans pardoned.”
Obama stressed civil responsibility in his inaugural address and made direct statements to those listening.
“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified,” Obama said.
Jenna Losch, biochemistry freshman, viewed Obama’s speech in UU220, saying his message of hope has really transcended the nation.
“It was really exciting to wake up this morning and to feel like the country can be changed,” Losch said. “A couple years ago I didn’t think the United States was the best place to live, (that) maybe I should live in another country.”
Cheryl Nye, vice provost for academic programs watched in San Luis Lounge. Nye, who has two adopted Cambodian children and now grandchildren knows it’s not easy for her children and grandchildren because the color of their skin.
“I can tell you that this means a lot to me and my grandkids and it’s true what people say that seeing him as president truly means a lot to our kids.”
Nye lived in the south side of Chicago from 1980 to 1986 while Obama worked on the streets of Chicago as a community activist while also marching in Washington D.C. in the 80s’.
“I walked the same ground and know the same things that shaked him in terms of his community activism and the sense that we have to hold tight to our values,” Nye said. “I was able to empathize (with) the millions of people who wanted to be part (of the inauguration). For him to give a speech like he gave, it was extremely thought out and rooted in values that people share. ”
Three campus entities – Associated Students Inc., the Multicultural Center and University Housing – combined to put on the inauguration event.