Eyewitnesses to history

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

While the wide-eyed children anticipated the clock striking noon, adults packed into the Webber Center at Central Florida Community College – all waiting to hear the first words from America’s 44th president, Barack Obama.

Joyce Peoples, gifted student teacher at Hammett Bowen Jr. Elementary School, brought her class of 22 fourth- and fifth-graders to the televised inauguration event at the college. Princpal Leanna Dixon said the students were “really excited” to attend the historic swearing in.

Inaya Harmon, a fourth-grader in Peoples’ class, said she was thrilled to attend the community gathering, because her grandfather told her this inauguration was “an important part of history.”

Student Rachel Gonzalez agreed. She said the inauguration of President Obama was significant to see and it was a new chapter in American history.

During the election season, Peoples’ class discussed the requirements of the inauguration ceremony as dictated by the United States Constitution, as well as some of the traditions. The students even learned the 35 words in the oath of office – correctly. They also researched past presidential inaugurations.

To learn more about the process, Gonzalez, a fifth-grader, said she read newspapers on the computer and also watched television to learn more about it.

Hammett Bowen student Kaylin Kleckner said she thought it was “cool” that we can have a new president, without all the fighting that exists in other parts of the world. The fourth grader said she wants to learn more about voting and politics.

Local Officials Attend

Community Celebration

The inauguration event at CFCC was attended by all five Marion County Commissioners, Ocala-Marion Commerce president Jaye Bailey, other local officials and was open to the public. It was sponsored by Republican United States Congressman Cliff Sterns.

After Obama’s election victory, the congressman’s district director, John Konkus, said the phone started ringing off the hook with people requesting tickets for the momentous event.

About 48 hours after Obama was elected it became “very apparent” that the inauguration would be one like no other. Therefore, he decided to bring people together as one and give them the opportunity to watch the change of power as a community. Sterns hosted similar events at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville and Fleming Island in Clay County.

At approximately 11:30 a.m., Charles Dassance, president of CFCC, introduced Sterns, who spoke to the crowd via a pre-recorded message.

Though he knew many people wanted to attend the “historic occasion” in Washington D.C., Sterns said he was glad to be able to assist the public by making them apart of the celebration. After Sterns finished his brief message, the large screen switched back to the live pre-inauguration festivities going on at the nation’s Capitol.

Shortly after noon, approximately 240 guests watched intently at the Webber Center as President Obama was sworn into office. Once it was official, the crowd got out of their seats and cheered.

Contact Amy Ryffel-Kragh at 854-3986 or e-mail akragh@newsrlsmc.com.