Hope has its rewards. Just ask Kenyetta Jones, an auto-industry worker from Toledo, Ohio, who experienced 13 months of unemployment as a result of the nation's economic crisis. Under any other president, she might have lost faith, but when President Obama promised hope and change she believed him.
Since returning to work in April 2010 thanks to the federal government's auto industry bailout, Jones has done things and gone to places she never would have dreamed possible. She introduced Obama at a Labor Day rally in Ohio and spoke at last summer's Democratic National Convention. This weekend, as one of eight inauguration citizen co-chairs, Jones is once again in the spotlight. Each of the co-chairs represents a core value of the president's administration, including health care, education and civil and gay rights.
Her fondest memory may be Friday's visit to the Oval Office, an experience very few ordinary Americans get to experience.
"It was exciting just to be in his presence where so much happens. He didn't even need to say a word," Jones told BET.com.
In addition to posing for photos with the group, the president thanked them for their contributions and resilience.
“Each of them remind me not only how much we have accomplished, but also how much we have left to do over the coming four years," he said.
The co-chairs participated in Saturday's National Day of Service, will march in Monday's parade after the swearing-in ceremony and attend an inaugural ball. Part of Jones still cannot believe she is having all of these extraordinary experiences.
During her period of unemployment, Jones, who has two daughters in college, said the family had to make a lot of changes. Her husband had just taken a new job and a significant salary cut, so luxuries like vacations and going out to eat were out of the question.
"When you lose something it's discouraging, but the hope was always there," she said. "Had anybody else been in the White House during the crisis, I wouldn’t have had so much faith and hope. But I kept hanging on and knew it would turn around."
She shudders to think what would have happened if another group had taken over the industry, speculating that there would have been major wage cuts and lost benefits and pensions.
"Obama's presidency has given me a lot of hope. His slogans of hope and change are really what America needs and what we're standing on," Jones said. "He's the kind of person who when he says something we really believe him. I support him 120 percent. And people like us will help him make it happen."
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(Photo: White House/ Pete Souza)