‘We are ready to lead once more’

Kristine Philips

As Obama’s era begins, patriotism renewed in Kent, across campus


Change and hope were in the air across Kent as Barack Obama took the oath of office and became the 44th president of the United States and the first African-American president.

“We now have a man of color as president, which is phenomenal,” said Craig Stephens, chair of the Portage County Democratic Party. “We’re going to return to some of the values that I think are important, like education and health care.”

Stephens and other Portage County Democrats gathered at the Italian American Club in Ravenna to watch the ceremony. Volunteer Carol O’Laughlin smiled as she caught glimpses of Obama’s speech while she greeted the attendants at the front table of the club.

“I’ve been working for this day,” O’Laughlin said when Obama stepped toward the podium to make his inaugural speech. “Today is our payday,” she said turning to fellow volunteer Barbara Gaskins.

Although Stephens watched the ceremony in Ravenna, his wife and daughter had the opportunity to witness the inauguration firsthand from the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C. He said they received tickets through Congressman Tim Ryan’s office, and they planned to attend more of the inaugural festivities, including an inaugural ball.

“You got to feel the change here,” said Samantha Stephens, daughter of Stephens. “The energy of the city was unforgettable.”

Former Kent State student Dan Kurak noted the energy of anticipation that filled Washington D.C. prior to the inauguration. Kurak spent the previous weekend there to witness the festivities. He returned to Kent at the beginning of the week and watched the inauguration with friends in the Kiva, which aired the inauguration and served cookies to students.

“So many people are excited about our country,” Kurak said. “It hasn’t happened in so long.”

His companion, senior psychology major Dawnette Tolbert, jumped up and down with excitement.

“It’s amazing,” Tolbert said. “We didn’t feel proud to be Americans, and now watching the inauguration, we’re proud to be Americans.”

The feeling was so strong in the Kiva, it spread to international students as well. Aurora Musilli, sophomore chemistry student from Italy, noted she was grateful she had the opportunity to witness the election cycle and its completion.

“The speech was great, and the spirit of patriotism was evident,” Musilli said.

Pride and patriotism filled Paul Rodgers, junior middle child education major, as he watched the conclusion of the ceremony. At 28-years-old, Rodgers had already taken part in two other presidential elections. However, he noted this election was special to him, not only because of its historic nature, but because it was the first time he had voted for a major party candidate in the general election.

“Obama was speaking about a lot of stuff that usually the third party candidate spoke about,” Rodgers said. “This election was just too important to vote for a third party candidate. I can see now that I made the right choice.”

Contact general assignment reporter Kristine Philips at [email protected].