Where Were You When …

The first day back at school from winter break was a memorable one for Cherokee Point Elementary teacher Anthony LaRue. He hopes it will be as memorable for his students, too..

LaRue, an African-American man who doesn't fit the stereotypical mold of a kindergarten teacher, played the inauguration on his classroom projector and asked his class to pay close attention. Needless to say, a classroom full of 5-year-olds is a tough audience to hold, but the kids seemed to grasp the importance of the early morning lesson.

All across San Diego County, televisions and computers showed the inauguration of President Barack Obama Tuesday, stopping work and school for almost an hour.

At the offices of the federal defenders downtown, a computer streamed the event. Despite the interruptions in connection, staffers were impressed by the event and the speech made by the new president.

Frank Mangan said he felt optimistic about the new administration.

“That we’ll work out our problems -- not go to war to settle things, not have a Congress that follows party lines but joins together for the common good,”Mangan said.

One of the federal investigators liked the tone but thought that was happening is beginning.

“It was just a generation ago that the nation was so different,” Aaron Rodebaugh said. “We have to continue making those changes for a black president or a Latino president to not be such a big deal.”

At Cherokee Point Elementary, LaRue hopes that 5, 10, or 50 years from now, his students will be able to look back and recall at least some memory of the introduction of the 44th president of the United States of America.

Wearing her red and blue hair clips, 5-year old Vashanti White said she wouldn’t mind being president when she grew up but she would really prefer to be a veterinarian.

At the Malcolm X Library a mother and daughter, both professors at local colleges, had the same message.  They knew that one day the United States would have an African American president, but they didn’t think they would live to see it.

“I feel relieved.  I feel like finally this moment has arrived and I didn’t expect this in my lifetime,” Sherhhe Hollins said.  “So it’s a blessing, it’s a gift and it’s inspiration.  I know I have such a responsibility to take the message of Barack Obama and internalize it and make it my own.”

Hollins’ mother said she remembers segregation and the civil rights movement and says this day is an important day for not only for America, but for the world.

“If we get this right, we are models for the whole world, that we can all get along, live together in peace and harmony and build something beyond our imagination, Stala Hollins said.  “I’m so moved that America is finally being my America.”

A local Marine told us President Barack Obama represents hope, and is an important role model for his son.

“This is a day I can tell my son that anything is possible, anything,” U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Shaka Greene said.  “Anything is possible including being President of the United States.”

Sgt. Greene, who served two tours in Iraq, said America picked the right man for the job. 

“It’s a great day for me as a Marine, to know that someone is going to take over and defend our nation and do the best job that he can, and what I liked about him was integrity and accountability,” he said.

Martha Ranon is a Chula Vista resident and a community activist.

“There’s a lot of hope I think in the air,” Ranon said.  “I think there are people in the community that think they can now make a difference and a lot of us community individuals here feel that one person can make a change and I think he [President Obama] embodies that change.”

Ranon was visibly emotional during President Obama’s speech.

“Just being here in this room was overwhelming in the sense that I got goose bumps and I got very emotional.  It’s great that we have someone in office that will represent a lot of people in the United States,” she said.

A sentiment shared by almost everyone we spoke with on this historic day.

“This is living history,” Stala Hollins said.

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