It may have looked like the whole world came out for President Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday, but in reality over one million people – a record number according to Associated Press estimates – flocked to Washington D.C. for the historic occasion. Others viewed the event at special locations, or on their own TV screens.
“It’s refreshing, because it renews hope that I think a lot of people lost and were missing” – Tiffany Perry
In Jersey City, Tiffany Perry, a mother of three boys who lives in the Housing Authority’s Curries Woods housing complex, was among 50 public housing residents who were bussed or came on their own to the Curries Woods Community Revitalization Center near the Jersey City/Bayonne border. Perry was holding her 1-year-old son Kopono as she watched Obama take the oath of office.
“It’s refreshing, because it renews hope that I think a lot of people lost and were missing,” Perry said. “It gives hope that anything is possible, and things will change because we need it.”
Jersey City has a special connection to Obama. As a candidate, he visited the city in April of 2007 and January of 2008. Obama also got early support from Mayor Jerramiah Healy, one of the few prominent New Jersey politicians to give him an early endorsement.
Healy and his wife, Maureen, were among a number of Jersey City residents who made it to the nation’s capital Tuesday to see the new leader’s address.
“And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more,” Obama proclaimed in his inaugural address.
A day to remember and react
Those who were sitting in the Curries Woods Community Center were predominantly African-American seniors who had waited a lifetime to see an African-American ascend to the highest office in the land. Maybe that was why it took awhile for them to get into the spirit of the moment, although they started warming up when legendary R&B singer Aretha Franklin sang the patriotic hymn, “My Country ’Tis of Thee.” And by the time Obama was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, they were giving him a standing ovation.
Patricia “Tish” Jackson, the director of resident support services for the Jersey City Housing Authority, was pumped up whenever she saw Obama on the projection screen that was set up for showing the inauguration. But she was cautiously optimistic about him going forward as a leader.
“[People] will be coming at him from all angles, but he is only just a man,” Jackson said. “Not a messiah, just a man.”
Lorenzo Richardson, an accountant with the Urban League of Hudson County, stayed in Jersey City because he gave his bus ticket to a friend who wanted to go to Washington more than he did. However, that did not diminish Richardson’s elation at seeing the new occupant of the White House.
“First of all, I would like him to take a look at the banks, followed by the war in Iraq, and then the nation’s infrastructure,” Richardson said. “As for him becoming president, Obama is momentum that was a long time coming.”
CREATE Charter High School on Lembeck Avenue let out its students for a half-day to celebrate Inauguration Day. Staying after school closed to watch the inauguration was the school’s art teacher Maya Wilson, wearing a black sequined shirt with an image of Obama on the front.
“Domestically, President Obama needs to focus on education; we need to have funding for students to go to college,” Wilson said. “Personally, I think what he represents is monumental, and marks a huge shift in the psyche of our country.”
Subia’s Organic Market on Jersey Avenue in downtown Jersey City had a portable TV sitting on the counter, near some Obama photos. Sunny Sims, a Journal Square resident and regular customer, had the perspective of a seasoned practitioner of yoga and Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction. She remarked on the special abilities the new leader will bring to the job.
“People say he is aloof, but it is not aloofness,” Sims said. “It doesn’t mean he’s not passionate or won’t get angry; he’s learned how to be objective and observe carefully … which is better than someone being emotional and saying they want to bomb Iran for whatever reason.”