MACON — Mercer faculty, staff and students packed into the Bear Rock Café and the Law School student lounge on Tuesday to watch and celebrate the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States and the country’s first African-American president. The events sparked a feeling of optimism among attendees, especially students, who said the event was a defining moment for their generation.
“This is a moment we will all remember,” said Kelley Pierce, 25, a second-year law student from Columbus. “The first African-American president of the United States … It’s a pretty momentous feeling.”
More than 200 gathered at the Bear Rock Café and dozens of students, faculty and staff at the Mercer Law School joined together in the lounge to watch the historic event.
Freshman Chantelle Young, an African-American from Albany, was inspired by attending the event with her classmates at the Café.
“This is a unifying moment that shows the triumphant spirit of our nation,” Young said. “You saw that in the event today, with people from all different backgrounds and socioeconomic groups coming together to celebrate. We had to come here to this event – we could have watched it in our dorm rooms – but to watch it with your fellow classmates really unifies you.”
Senior Jayme Love, who is specializing in biomedical engineering, said that her father was inspired by Obama to vote for the first time in his life. Love, an African-American from Waycross, said that the election was more than just an inspiration to her father, but also to her generation.
“I think this election has gotten people more involved in politics. People can be so nonchalant about it, but now I think people realize how important it is and they’re participating,” Love said.
For Chong Pak, an Asian-American law student from Duluth, the event “is a true milestone in American history,” he said.
“This says a lot about us as a nation of people,” said Pak, 38, a first-year student. “It shows us how far we have come, and how far we have to go. …We need vision and inspiration.”
“Now, no one has an excuse not to succeed in life,” said Barry Pierce, an African-American senior from Brunswick, noting Obama’s African-American heritage and fatherless childhood did not stop him from realizing his aspirations. “It makes you want to work that much harder – he made it to the highest position in America – so the sky’s the limit.”
Hannah Vann, a white junior majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, was hopeful about the prospects for Obama’s presidency. Vann, a Democrat from Rome said she was looking forward to Obama’s new direction in international affairs.
“I really liked what he said about a new beginning, about restructuring the country,” Vann said. “I’m a humanitarian, so I really liked what he said about giving back and taking care of those who are less fortunate.”
Minutes after President Obama took the oath and completed his inauguration speech, first-year law student Antoine Bostic, 23, said: “Growing up, I never thought this would happen.” Sitting next to Bostic, first-year law student Lanicia Williams said a change has occurred. “I just think this opens the doors to everyone,” Williams said.
Sophomore business student Benjamin Little, of Villa Rica, was more inspired than ever, and the inauguration showed him the promise for his future.
“For me personally, as a black man, my parents always told me it was possible that I could be whatever I wanted to be in this country,” Little said. “Now, we know it’s true.
“Today was one more step for the country toward change, because all the civil rights pioneers’ dreams are beginning to come true,” he added. “It was good to see so many Mercer students come together and celebrate as one.”