Reported by Angela Vasquez-Giroux, Neal McNamara and Kyle Melinn and written by McNamara
At an inauguration event at Michigan State University Tuesday, right in the middle of Barack Obama’s speech, a young woman received a text message. The message was a quote that Obama had just spoken:
“… know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”
The sender of the message had written at the end:
It seems that “shivers” is what a lot of people across America — and certainly the million or more huddled together watching the inauguration in Washington — were feeling Tuesday.
It was no different across our tiny enclave of America here in the Lansing area. A smattering of inauguration events were held for those who either couldn’t make it to Washington, or would rather experience this moment at home.
At Friendship Baptist Church, a black congregation on Pleasant Grove Road, the Rev. Lester Stone greeted visitors to the churchs 10 a.m. Inauguration Day get together with a wide smile.
From his eyes, Stone sees Gods hands all over Barack Obamas historic ascension to the office of the presidency.
Just as God raised up Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in the third chapter of Exodus, Stone had preached during a recent sermon, so too has God given Obama the gifts to become the first African-American to become president at this point in the nations history.
"God raises up leaders and gives them a mission of freedom and equality," Stone said. "God has done that with Barack Obama, to give him the abilities to be the countrys leader."
At Lansing Community College, residents and students filled Dart Auditorium to watch the inauguration on a big screen.
Terrence King of Dimondale, a parttime LCC employee, said he was glad to be able to watch the “historical event” with his LCC coworkers and friends. The inauguration had a number of meanings for him, the first being one of progress.
“I think he embodies hope for our country," King said simply. "You see some kind deeds right now — I know it happens all the time, but it seems more visible right now.”
That hope isnt just for the country as a whole, but for each citizen. DeShawn Portee Sr. was at LCC buoyed by hope for the future of his children. He said Obamas ascension to the nations highest office shows his children that “anything is possible.” Perhaps even more important, “It means change is possible.” Portee was hoping to catch a glimpse of his aunt and grandmother on the big screen as well, but with the crowd expected to be of recordsetting size, that didnt seem likely.
Christine DeYonke and her husband, Dan, came to Dart to watch the inauguration rather than stay at home because they “wanted to be with people.”
"With other people, you feel connected to whats happening in D.C., and we can view and celebrate." She described the moment as a “new beginning” for the country.
"Its amazing that, given the tone of the country with the economy and everything, that we still feel so much hope."
At the MSU event, hundreds packed into the ballroom of the Student Union to watch the inauguration on a movie theatersized projection screen and snack on hors d’oeuvres.
Shantell Cleveland, who had to take a seat along the wall because there were no more chairs at the round tables set up, had wanted to go to Washington to see the inauguration live but couldn’t swing it.
“I’m very excited,” she said, moments before the beginning of the inauguration ceremony. “I wish I could be there to see it. Hopefully, coming from this, we’ll all be able to unite as one — like we’re supposed to be.”
Sheila Nash, a teacher at C.W. Otto Middle School in Lansing, was in Washington, where she had secured a spot near the Washington Monument.
The excitement in her voice was palpable, as she spoke by cell phone to a City Pulse reporter from a Starbucks a mile away from the mall following the inauguration. Fifty to sixty people were in line for coffee, she said, trying to get warm after hours in the frigid temperatures.
“Its fabulous,” she said about the inauguration. "I am ecstatic that there is a unique, well-spoken and intelligent president in our White House." Nash said Obamas "totally unique perspective" on the country and the world means good things.
Back at Friendship Baptist, Eugene Pernell said he wished he were in Washington to see the inauguration for himself. The son and grandson of Alabama sharecroppers, Pernell was a student protestor at the Birmingham bus boycott.
“I wanted to be there for them. They wouldnt have believed it,” he paused for a moment. “Shoot, I dont believe it.”
Pernell said a granddaughter had found him a flight to Washington and he had been ready to take it. But at age 73, Pernell said his wife was concerned about his traveling alone. He begrudgingly agreed that he probably shouldnt.
“Shes usually right about those kind of things,” he said. “Thats why Im here.” The crowning moment of the events, of course, was seeing Obama put his hand on that Lincoln bible and officially become president.
At MSU, the crowd just erupted — and they chuckled along with Obama when he stuttered as he was taking the oath.
“It’s like saying your wedding vows,” one woman turned and said to her friend.
At 11:40 a.m. the roughly 100 gathered at Friendship Baptist exploded in jubilation as a glimpse of Obama was shown walking toward the inauguration stage. Then they cheered as Barack Obama was introduced. They even cheered portions of the Rev. Rick Warrens invocation after initially giving him a frosty reception.
When Obama repeated the oath of office, the cheering and screaming inside Friendship Baptist drowned out everything else. There were high-fives, handshakes, hugs and tears. Pernell wiped his eyes before taking another hug from a friend.
At MSU, as the crowd watched the inauguration speech itself, the attendees filled the president’s beats with applause and comments. When Obama thanked George W. Bush, some groaned; Obama’s remark that greed is causing part of the country’s economic problems elicited a loud “mmhmm” from one man.
After the speech, Audrey Smith was standing near the back of the room with her colleague from MSU’s Women’s Resource Center, Evette Chavez Lockhart, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Obama’s image and the word “Believe.”
“It was everything I needed to hear right now,” Smith said. “I support and pray for him every day because this is going to be no small task.”
“I thought (the speech) was amazing,” said Chavez Lockhart. “I love how he touched on the caring values of having to be there for each other.”
And what’s the first thing Obama’s going to do when he starts work today?
“He’s going to pray,” Smith said. “For all that he’s going to have to do.” After Obama’s speech at Friendship Baptist, a woman approached a reporter and whispered, “You know, its Pastor Stones birthday today. You should get that in there.”
“This is a nice birthday present,” the reporter replied.
“Hell never forget this one,” she said.