They were all there for the same reason on Sunday. Every color, every age, every stage of life. They waited – some more patiently than others – in a cold, empty room until someone led them outside. Then, they waited again, in a line on Arch Street.
One by one, they boarded the Chinatown bus. They sat for three hours, growing more excited and getting more anxious, before they dragged their bags onto the Sixth Street sidewalk in Washington, D.C. They all went their separate ways, but they will reunite today for a common cause.
Today at noon, Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States. The theme – which commemorates the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth – for the 2009 inauguration is “A New Birth of Freedom,” which was chosen by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies in consultation with the Senate Historian’s Office.
The attendance rate is expected to be the highest in the nation’s history.
Though members of the inauguration committee have not released an official count, estimates range from 1 million to 3 million people.
People from all over the nation and all over the world will come together this afternoon to witness this historic event, and many of those people will be Temple students.
Sophomore political science major Megan Chialastri drove from Main Campus to Washington, D.C., yesterday with some of her fellow Temple College Democrats members.
“Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, whatever, I think it is important for people to be able to watch the event take place,” Chialastri said. “After all, it will set the tone for Barack Obama’s presidency, as well as the next four years of our lives.”
Even Temple students who aren’t planning to attend the inauguration can still get the chance to witness the day’s events.
Hillel Hoffman, assistant director of university communications, has confirmed faculty has been given permission cancel classes between the hours of 10:10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, sent an e-mail to faculty detailing guidelines for class cancellations. Staiano-Coico advised professors who wish to cancel class to do so beforehand, though she recognizes that may be difficult because today is the first day of the semester.
“I know one of my classes has already been canceled,” Chialastri said. “I’m thrilled that Temple has given professors permission to cancel class.”
Starr was also excited to learn about the possible class cancellations but had reservations.
“While I am excited to hear that the provost is allowing teachers to cancel class, I believe that it may have been more productive to allow the same on Election Day since we are a commuter campus, and many students voted in their hometown and took the day to help with the election,” Starr said in an e-mail interview.
As exciting and historic as today’s events may be for those on campus and in Washington, D.C., the issue of safety is a pressing one.
Several major traffic arteries in the area will be restricted to authorized vehicles, some will be designated as pedestrian only and others will be closed entirely. Inauguration officials have warned attendees that thorough screening is probable, and ticketholders should plan to arrive by 9 a.m. and plan to wait in lines. The list of prohibited items is extensive, but cameras and cell phones are permitted.
Despite the many security efforts, Chialastri still has some concerns.
“I’m more concerned about crowd control and the safety of spectators,” she said.
Junior film and media arts major Gregory Starr said he isn’t all that worried.
“The Metropolitan Police Department and Secret Service have spent a lot of time and money for the safety of President-elect Obama and all those attending the inauguration,” the former Temple College Democrats vice president said. “I am not overly fearful for the safety of anybody involved in Tuesday’s event.”
Chialastri has high hopes for the new president, and he’s ready for him to fulfill his promises.
“With the state of the economy, the national debt and the war, I expect Obama to try to fix as much as he can very fast,” Chialastri said. “I’m very excited to see how he handles it. I think if he takes care of things swiftly and makes the right decisions, his first term could be comparable to FDR.”
Shannon McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.