Locals recognize the history, but not awed with black presidency

A point of fact: Barack Obama officially became the nation’s first black president Tuesday.

“I have no problem with him being black,” said Lee Waugh, as he made his way, rolling his oxygen tank alongside, from the parking lot to his job at StarTek on south Seventh Street. “I just — with his policies and socialistic tendencies — I think he is getting away from what the United States was founded on.”

Most people, when asked, agreed with Waugh in that race played no role in Obama’s election.

Obama’s inauguration, at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday, is historic, but overblown by the media, Randy VanConett said as he waited with his daughter Tuesday morning for the Department of Motor Vehicles to open.

“I think it is overrated,” he said. “I think this is just the flow of our country.”

He said the nation has been electing black men and women to offices on the local and national level for years. The timing is right for a black man in the Oval Office, he said.

“I think we are right where we are supposed to be,” VanConett said.

Others saw the day as one to celebrate.

“I’m so excited,” said Rachel Helmerichs, an employee at Main Street Bagels, 559 Main St. “I wish my great-grandparents could see it.”

A crowd of more than 60 people watched the inauguration at the bagel shop Tuesday, she said.

“In the town I am from (in Illinois, where Obama served as a U.S. Senator) a lot of eyebrows were raised,” she said, commenting on the traditions, ideas and stereotypes that live on in small towns and survive by being handed down from generation to generation.

“It is a huge step for our country,” Helmerichs said.

At their regular morning coffee hour at Coffee Muggers, 644 Main St., Kevin Kennedy was reading the editorial page in The Daily Sentinel and commenting aloud about the inauguration.

“It is historic,” Kennedy said. “To say racism doesn’t exist ... is a little pie-eyed.”

Wayne Meineke, who shares a seat within the same political discussion group as Kennedy, said he was proud the country is living up to its high ideals.

“It is almost a sense of relief to finally fulfill what we have been advocating,” Meineke said.

“We are finally living up to what we believe in.”

Working man Jeff Jurrens said all he wants out of a new president is some job security.

“I hope he does a good job,” he said, while working on equipment at the Foxworth-Galbraith
Lumber company on South Seventh Street. “Turn the economy around so people stop losing their jobs. It’s kind of scary right now.”

Jurrens is not alone in his economic concern.

“The major one is the economy, I hope he can fix it,” said Pat Daily, standing in front of Mesa Theater & Club, 538 Main St.

While unloading donated items for Hospice’s Main Street thrift store, Bob Martin said he had no future fears, just pride.

“It’s a good day in history,” Martin said.

“It is about time,” said Cam Morris, who was helping Martin unload the hospice van. “It’s real significant.”


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