Yesterday, in classes and in ballrooms, from Bronfman Auditorium to Washington, D.C., Williams students celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Some traveled to the capital, others gathered to watch live footage and some danced at an all-campus Inaugural Ball.
One hundred Williams students and 10 faculty and staff, acting as chaperones, were present among the enthused crowds greeting the newly sworn-in president in Washington, D.C. The trip was funded by the College and coordinated by the Multicultural Center (MCC) and the Office for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity.
The available spaces on the two recruited buses were filled by lottery, with each participant paying a nominal ticket price of $20. Approximately 140 students entered for a chance to go on the trip, which provided transportation to and from the capital, t-shirts and hats to mark the occasion and one meal from dining services.
The buses left campus on Monday at 8 p.m. and arrived in Washington, D.C. at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, when students were then allowed to view the inauguration independently.
“I was really behind Obama during his campaign, as many students here and everywhere were, and I was thrilled – words cannot describe – when he won the election,” said Mariah Clegg ’12, one of the bus lottery winners. “To see the culmination of all this work done by millions of Americans – from civil rights workers to student canvassers – is a dream.”
Viewing the inauguration live was “an energizing experience because everyone got excited,” Zeynep Boskun ’12 said. “People are accepting change and that’s why I came here today.”
Peter Menking ’12, another lottery winner, agreed that being in Washington, D.C. was more exciting than watching on television. “It’s as if Obama was speaking to me,” he said.
“Being from Kenya, Obama’s success is an encouragement and boost of hope, not only for me, but for millions of people living in abject poverty in many parts of the world – especially Africa,” said James Muita Mathenge ’12. “He has proved that people do not have to come from privileged background in order for them to make a positive difference in the world. I wanted to witness him taking office as the first ever African American president of the U.S. This is history being written and the best way to be a part of it is by watching it unfold before my very eyes.”
The trip was “a fantastic opportunity for all,” said Gail Bouknight-Davis, director of the MCC.
Several photographs and a video
SS students’ trip to the inauguration will be shown at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Dinner tomorrow along with a presentation of students’ thoughts about the inauguration.
Back on campus, Dodd Neighborhood, the Roosevelt Institute and the leadership studies faculty organized a viewing of the presidential inauguration at Bronfman Auditorium. The event was scheduled to take place in Goodrich Hall but was moved because sunlight interfered with the projection. Over 300 students and faculty filled the auditorium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The party was reminiscent of November’s Election Day, with coverage of the inauguration projected on a big screen and free pizza. The event culminated with the Springstreeters’ singing of the national anthem.
“We’re trying to focus on what’s happening in D.C. as much as possible.” said Peter Drivas ’11, one of the student organizers of the event and a member of the Roosevelt Institution. “Obviously, the big thing was the inauguration itself, particularly Obama’s speech, which is what people were most excited for. It seems to me that pizza and Barack Obama are more or less two of the most popular things at Williams.”
“I think in general people are excited because it’s going to be the start of what will hopefully be a better four years,” said Emily Behrman ’09, president of Dodd Neighborhood.
Although some students have class on Tuesday mornings, many professors did their best to ensure that students were able to watch the inauguration. Chip Chandler, professor of leadership studies, encouraged his students to attend the Bronfman festivities, and Dusty Bahlman, who is teaching a Winter Study journalism class, canceled class to allow his students to watch the
Jane Swift, former governor of Massachusetts and an initiator of the Goodrich viewing, is teaching “The Presidential Transition Process: A Political Perspective” for Winter Study Not counting three students who traveled to Washington, D.C. on the bus, her entire class attended the viewing. “It is a very exciting time in our country’s history, and I’ve been impressed with how engaged Williams students have been in this political cycle,” Swift said.
“I was really moved by the sense of common purpose uniting people of different faiths and nationalities. It’s really exciting to have a president who seems so sincere when he talks about his values of peace, tolerance, and dignity,” said Madelyn Labella Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ09 after Obama’s inaugural speech.
Whitman’s Dining Hall served Obama’s favorite foods in a special lunch, which included roasted squash salad, cheddar biscuits, feta and cranberry salad and strawberry smoothies. Enthusiasm for the inauguration continued last night, when Dodd Neighborhood and the Black Student Union held an Inaugural Ball in Goodrich Hall, featuring red, white and blue decorations, a massive balloon drop with over 1,000 balloons, six foot-long hoagies and champagne. The Frosh Council-sponsored Freshman Formal, which will occur this Saturday, will also have an inauguration theme.
Due to the College’s widespread support of Obama, President Schapiro decided to postpone the campus’ celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day until tomorrow, with the theme of “Social Justice Then and Now: From the Age of King to Obama.” According to Davis, the postponement is also logistically easier for the MCC staff, who organized both the bus lottery and the MLK celebration.
The jubilant whoops and whistles that rang throughout the campus on the night of Nov. 4 were reflected – if less raucously – in the students’ cheers as the new president was sworn in and in their hopes for what his new term will bring.
“I think students are very excited for a generational change in leadership that resonates with them,” Swift said. “Obama’s positions and view of the world are very much aligned with the priorities articulated by many Williams students with whom I’ve discussed the upcoming presidency.”