At Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it was not just Inauguration Day. It was also the holiday celebrating the 84th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and, therefore, a day of no classes.
About 35 students at the Historically Black University gathered midmorning to view the televised inauguration of President Obama in Washington, D.C., some 1,100 miles from the Louisiana campus. And those who came out to view the event in a Baton Rouge fraternity house said they were encouraged and inspired by the inauguration.
“For me, it was amazing to watch this inauguration,” said Kimberly Tucker, a senior from Shreveport, Louisiana, majoring in psychology. “His speech was tremendously informative, it covered a wide range of topics and the president did a wonderful job in delivering it.”
She and other students said that there is a tendency to look at holidays as deeply welcomed opportunities for sleeping late and relaxing. But they said they felt a need to celebrate the twin events of the King holiday and Obama inauguration in the company of their fellow students.
“I think this means a lot to students, especially students at Historically Black Colleges,” said Ryan Tucker, a junior at Southern, who is also majoring in psychology.
“For us, it’s an incredible experience to see the first Black president getting sworn in to lead the United States. He has made history and many students feel that they want to feel a part of this history.”
Tucker, who is president of his school’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, said that it was “particularly special to celebrate the two powerful Black men in one day: Obama and King.”
He added: “To me, they both represent the aspirations of the African-American community. One represents the struggle for civil rights. The other represents what the civil rights movement allowed us to achieve.”
Of course, for some students, there was more than the Obama speech that left them impressed.
“Obama gave a powerful speech,” said Terika Smith, a freshman from New Orleans, who is majoring in nursing.
“The ceremony was powerful. But I really enjoyed seeing Kelly Clarkson,” she said, referring to the pop-rock singer who performed "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at the inauguration. “That was wonderful.”
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(Photo: DJ Hunter/Prince Photography)