Local leaders offer their thoughts on historic eventWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | email@example.com
Toledo Free Press asked local leaders for their perspective on the Jan. 20 inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Tom Waniewski, Toledo City Council
I’ve been to two inaugurations, and no matter which party you lean toward, the historical nature of transitioning government is an empirical rush that defies description. Aside from the fact that it is real-time history, it is also an opportunity — if only for a brief day or two — to assign a face to a promise. The face of the president-elect reminds us as voting Americans that we play by the rules and respect those rules for electing our leaders.
George Sarantou, Toledo City Council
On Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as our 44th president of the United States, which will be a momentous occasion due to the fact that he is the first black elected to the presidency. This year, we will also celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, and what makes these two events so significant is that both men are citizens of Illinois, and both are noted in our history as leaders who sought to unite our country.
As I watch President-elect Obama take the oath of office, I will be thinking of two great Americans: Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., who accomplished so much for the equality of all Americans. Our nation is a beacon of freedom that the entire world can admire.
Ben Konop, Lucas County Commissioner
Of the many inspiring stories surrounding this historic inauguration, one in particular stands out. Barack Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, will be moving into the White House with the Obama family on Jan. 20. Inviting his mother-in-law to live with him certainly demonstrates that President-elect Obama is a man of great tolerance and humility (just kidding, all you loving mother-in-laws).
That Robinson, three generations removed from slavery, will now make her home in the most powerful house in America speaks to the better instincts of our great democracy. Robinson, a working-class woman who raised a family on Chicago’s gritty South Side, may not get a lot of attention on Inauguration Day, and there are certainly more pressing issues as we deal with our economy. But knowing Robinson will move into the White House offers a small measure of comfort that the American Dream, no matter how strained and stressed, perseveres.
William L. Pierce, Director of Admissions Technology, UT
This election represents what America is all about: opportunity. Our country has come a long way to elect its first black president, and it is a testament to the American people for the progress that has been made over many years. Beyond ethnicity, this election has created unity amongst people from all walks of life and has served to energize our nation and restore confidence in our electoral system. While there is much work to be done to rectify our financial system and our global relationships, I am confident in the direction that President -elect Obama and his team will lead us over the next several years. His vision for education coupled with the new UT Guarantee scholarship will help to create more access to higher education for all students, particularly in this region.
Willie Williams, Unit Director, South Toledo Boys & Girls Clubs
It means what I’ve already known; becoming president of the United States is not outside of anyone’s reach. It means succeeding when everyone else doesn’t believe in you. It means determination, persistence, going the distance. It means if I can dream it, I can achieve it. It means believing. It means taking a stand in what you believe in. It means inspiring others to believe in themselves and not letting anyone tell you what you can not do.
Pete Gerken, Lucas County Commissioner
On March 7, 1965, more than 600 civil rights activists, including now-Congressman John Lewis, marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., simply to secure the right to vote for all Americans.
These brave leaders knew they would be met with hostility, but they marched anyway. When Selma police officers tried to block their path, they kept marching. When the ensuing violence finally turned them back, King came to Selma, and they marched again.
They did this because of their unwavering belief that, in America, all people are created equal. And because of their work, we got the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and now the first black American as president. As Barack Obama becomes our 44th president, let’s not forget to reflect on the struggles of so many who came before him.
Joe McNamara, Toledo City Council
The inauguration of Barack Obama begins the change Toledo and the country needs to see. Our nation’s energy policy promotes economic instability. But the Obama transition team has announced a bold, new vision for promoting energy independence, transforming our economy and creating millions of green jobs. The City of Toledo is perfectly positioned to partner with Obama’s administration to implement these changes.
First of all, UT has proven itself to be a center of innovation for renewable energy technology. Toledo’s highly skilled work force and mastery over glass has led to the successful start-up and growth of multiple solar-panel manufacturers. With the promise of a national emphasis on renewable energy, technologies designed and manufactured in Toledo could begin powering the nation.
Shawna Woody, Director of Program Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo
I watched the returns alone. Perhaps I was a bit selfish not to share such a monumental event, but I didn’t want to miss a thing. I didn’t want any distractions. I prepared myself so that I could remember that moment on that day in history. I knew in my heart that I was watching history unfold. There is joy when I think about that moment, our past, our present, our future, our president. Not only does Barack Obama have the intellect and skills to run the country, but he has the personality, drive and spirit to bring countries together. He creates electricity — a vibe of optimism, hope and change … that we can really believe in. It is not a coincidence that I speak with children whose dreams have now been modified to include leadership roles. It is a direct effect of a true man of God, leader, husband and father.
Lee Russell, Adjunct Professor, Owens Community College
“They said this day would never come — change has come to America!”
These words spoken by President-elect Obama on election night were the most profound moment, and it best describes my feeling. I believed it would happen someday, but I never thought it would be in my lifetime. I always told my children, and now my grandchildren, that all things are possible. Now they can see it for themselves. This country, but more importantly, the world, is ready for our global communities to work together to make life better for all people. Even though we all know we have work to do, with President-elect Obama’s leadership and a newly inspired hope, “We can do it.”
Bettina C. Shuford, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Bowling Green State University
I wholeheartedly support many of Obama’s views on health care, education, human rights issues and the economy. I believe he can provide the change that is needed in this country and will continue to be a voice of the people throughout his presidency. Although he has surrounded himself with individuals who have impeccable credentials and a proven track record of success in their fields, it will take all of us to turn the economy around. Obama has the skill set and temperament to rally us toward the change we need. I am very hopeful for what his election will do for human relations in this country, particularly as it relates to race relations. The fulfillment of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is beginning to ring true.
Tina Skeldon Wozniak, Lucas County Commissioner
The inauguration of Barack Obama will be an inspiring moment for our country. His election has shifted our course, providing hope for a stronger economy, cleaner energy and peace at home and abroad.
This inauguration offers us all an opportunity to unite together for change, moving beyond the mistakes of the past and toward a better future for all. There are mounting challenges that await his presidency, but I am optimistic that with his vision and ability to bring people together, we will overcome the obstacles that face this great country.
From his calm and steady demeanor to his energetic children and his strong, beautiful wife, everything about this president and his family is exactly what this country needs during these uncertain times. This is not the first or last inauguration, but never before has someone so clearly been the right man for the right moment in our country.
Wilma D. Brown, Toledo City Council
The inauguration means that people are now being judged and accepted for their knowledge, experience, views and values instead of their skin color.
As an elected official, I have experienced more than 22 years of being judged because of my skin color and/or because I am a female, not because I had commitment and outstanding people skills and a willingness to stay focused until the job was done.
Barack Obama stayed calm and remained focused on government, not race and scare tactics. He did not try to use race as a focus for his campaign, even though he was the object of a smear campaign by the right (and even the left) during his campaign. I am very proud that Obama will be the first black to become president of the United States of America, but I am also proud of the fact that he is focused on the middle class of Americans, not just the wealthy.
D. Michael Collins, Toledo City Council
The experience of hope embraces my thoughts as it relates to my expressions from election eve, November 2008. I was both pleased and inspired when I saw the physical and verbal expressions as a result of individuals sharing their respective visions for the future of our great nation. I strongly feel that we as a nation, as well as a member of a global community, must lead to the future with a sense of belief that our current economic conditions will pass, and we as a nation will be stronger because of the experiences.
The inauguration of President-elect Obama to lead our great nation demonstrates how far we as a people have moved to the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.
Teresa Fedor, Ohio Senator
The American dream is real. This historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama validates the belief that through hard work, determination and intelligence, any American can grow up and become the president of the United States.
It means that Martin Luther King Jr. was right.
Americans voted for our president based not on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character. Racial barriers have been broken and hope for a better future has been renewed. In America, change is possible.
President-elect Obama’s inauguration represents the start of the journey to get millions of Americans back to work and to see more labels stamped with “Made in America.” He understands people need good jobs, quality education, affordable health care and retirement security to live their American dream.
His vision reflects our founding fathers principle of “We the people.”
His inauguration signifies the unique compact that exists between America’s citizens and her elected leaders.