Tag Archive | "Inauguration"

Obama Ran So We Could Fly

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By Bobby Vacca

It takes the soul of a poet to capture in a few words the historical significance of how the son of a man who grew up herding goats in a dusty African village has shaken off that dust to become the 44th President of the United States. As rapper Jay-Z so aptly put it, “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so we can all fly.”

As if to remind us all of the ultimate objective of Dr. King’s dream, Synclair Taylor, age six, while waiting for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade to begin, paraphrased the dream. “I have a dream: no white people, no black people, just people,” the boy said.

This report comes alive from inside the gates that open to our nation’s capital. What it took to get there is a miracle. A few days before the inauguration my thoughts drifted to my lady friend, a woman of color, and how Obama has captivated her heart. “I knew from the jump that he’s real,” she told me. “Whenever I reflect on what this means to our nation and our children, I am brought to tears.”

As I appreciated the indomitable spirit of this woman, a thought came to me that in retrospect should have been immediately rejected as “an impossible dream.” But because life has taught me that my faith in miracles must be totally unlimited for miracles to happen, one thought led to another until I had convinced myself that realizing the dream was more than possible; it was inevitable.

And so I dreamed: Wouldn’t it be something if I could score tickets to Barack Obama’s inauguration for my lady friend? Immediately a wave of inspiration washed over me that instead of drowning me in doubt carried me straight through the security gates of the National Mall to experience the inauguration live. I believed in my dream, though I had no clue how it could come to fruition. But then…that’s what faith is all about.

I called a friend with connections. He had just given away his last two tickets. No worries. A deluge of astonishing phone calls and emails later, somehow, by the grace of God, two tickets magically appeared for us in Queens. My lady friend had to pinch herself. “Is this really happening?” she asked me, shaking her head in disbelief.

Tuesday morning at one we boarded a tour bus in Times Square. At six we arrived in Washington, took the Metro, and by eight we stood shivering two blocks from the mall. Squished together like sardines in a giant can, we inched our way closer to pay dirt before the massive crunch of bodies would drown out the tiny sliver of daylight. It was the same story getting out, only more intensely maddening. Someone voiced the obvious question, “What would we do if we had this to do all over again?”

Three hours later we passed through the security gates and hiked our way toward the capital amidst the buzz of deliriously happy people, right on time for the inauguration ceremonies to begin. While my lady friend’s heart welled up with pride when her favorite recording artist, Aretha Franklin, lifted her inspired voice to “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” I kept turning around to marvel at the ocean of people that must have amounted to 10 Woodstock festivals rolled into one. I smiled at the connection.

As my lady friend would say on our drive back to Sag Harbor, “When you want to do something badly enough, you have to be willing to do things you don’t want to do to make your dream come true.”

I have been asking myself what it actually means that Obama ran so we can all fly. What is the indicator that proves this is true? I can only account for what is true for me. I don’t have to wait four years for the evidence. I am not waiting for the unemployment rate to drop, for the economy to thrive, or for the war in Iraq to end to decipher what it means to fly high into the sky of unlimited possibilities.

All I have to do is recapture the image of Barack Obama strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue with that big wide radiant smile and waving to the American people while holding hands with the love of his life. When I study that image, I see two extraordinary people joined as one by the power of their love for each other, their children, and the American people.

Naturally, for some, the jury is still out on Barack Obama. Not for me. I am blessed enough to have caught the vibe emanating from this man’s countenance as he strolled down the street so light on his feet he might as well have been shooting hoops. He would never say it himself; he would probably never even allow himself to think it, so I will say it for him:

I am Barack Obama, and I am just like you. We all have wings to fly as high as we want. I am your proof. I am here, the son of an African goat farmer. I never saw myself as underprivileged. I saw myself as free to dream; and through the power, the clarity, and the unshakeable focus of my own mind, the Red Sea parted. I will do my best to give all of God’s children every opportunity under the sun to flourish. But whether I do or whether I don’t, you already have your wings. Now go fly as high as you like.

Or as Abraham Lincoln more succinctly put it, “…That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Amanda Gleeson

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The Pierson High School ninth-grader, who went to the Inauguration of President Barack Obama in the Nation’s Capital, even while sporting a pair of crutches. Gleeson was asked to be a student leader and treated to the event by the organization People to People.


Amanda, you were certainly a very lucky girl to be able to participate in an event as historic as the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, what was the energy like down there?

There was a lot of clapping and cheering of course and then George Bush would come on and screen and everybody would boo, so it was like people really reacted.


From what we saw back people were standing very close to one another, either for warmth or because there were so many people attending. Was it really overcrowded everywhere?

Apparently there was something like five million people there, well a bit less than that. There was a lot of pushing and shoving and it took us an hour to get back to our bus, at least.


Where were you located during the speech? Where were you standing and how far were you from President Barack Obama?

We actually couldn’t see him, he was by the Lincoln memorial and we were facing the Capital Building so we were a bunch of people away. But we still got the same experience, we could still see everything and hear everything from the giant screens that they had up.


You were able to go with the People to People Organization, who are the ones that sponsored your trip. How many people were in the group that you went with?

In the whole entire People to People there are about 2500 kids. In my hotel there are about 200 to 300 and in my bus there are about 50 and in my group there are about 11.


Was there anything that President Barack Obama said that really affected you or made you think about your generation in the near future?

There was one thing he said, it was a country doesn’t judge its people on what they destroy, but what they build. I thought that was really interesting, because a lot of people probably never really thought of it that way.


How did President Obama’s speech make you feel afterwards? And how do you feel about the direction he intends to take the nation?

I am excited a bit. I never really liked George Bush. I think that Obama is going to do really great things for our country. And even some of my friends that are Republican are a little bit more excited after hearing his speech today, and they support him a little bit more. I thought that was very interesting.


There were a few topics that President Obama talked about that affect the nation as a whole, but if you could choose one thing to change over the next four years, under Obama’s presidency, what would you like to see improved?

I would definitely like to see our economy go up and get a little bit better. I think everybody would like that. Also the health care needs to change as well. Basically, in general, what everybody is expecting to happen. I think that he will actually help with that.


Do you realize the historical significance of the event that you just witnessed? Reflecting back on the day now, what would you say about the day overall?

I guess everybody realizes that it is a big moment for everybody, even if they don’t support Obama. It is just really amazing that there is a black president now and even though everybody was complaining, even myself, about how cold it was because we got up at five in the morning. And we were standing there for like hours just waiting for him to speak, and everybody was complaining. But when he started speaking, I felt that it was completely worth it.


Five hours, wow, what was the conversation like for that amount of time?

It was basically like everybody complaining about how freezing it was, and that their toes were going to fall off or something.


Was it mostly other students that you were standing near?

Yes, but we had a team leader, that was a person who was just yelling at us to put our cell phones away.


How was the security there going in and out of the area?

Well, we were told there was going to be more security and that we weren’t allowed to bring backpacks or anything. But there was absolutely none where I was. It was just a free for all – everybody walked in and you could basically do whatever.


What was the best part of the experience with the People to People organization so far?

A lot of my friends were completely jealous that I was going, so I think everybody realized it was a great experience for me, even though it was a little bit hard, because I was on crutches the entire time, but I really wanted to stay, and I actually almost got sent home at one point, because they weren’t sure I was going to be able to walk around at the Inaugural and there was going to be a million and one people there. So I think that I was really lucky that I was able to stay. And almost leaving before the inaugural made me realize how much I wanted to see this, because it was really important.


Community Celebrates With Obama

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By Marianna Levine

Hugs awaited friends and neighbors as they entered Bay Street Theater on Tuesday morning for a live screening of the Inauguration of America’s 44th President. People couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces as they scanned the capacity crowd within the theater that included several families with children. At one point the audience chuckled as a toddler danced joyously on stage in front of the screen, perhaps wishing to join in her unselfconscious dance of joy. For the most part people sat transfixed in their seats, at least those who were lucky enough to get a seat, watching with awe the crowds gathered on the Mall as well as the procession of VIPs on screen leading up to the moment Barack Obama came out onto the front steps of the Capitol to take the oath of office. The crowd stood up and cheered as the almost President Obama’s image appeared on screen.

Bay Street Theater directors Sybil Christopher and Murphy Davis said they decided to host the presidential debates, Election Day results, and the inauguration because they wanted to serve the community. They really wanted local residents to see the theater as a community center, and to use it as such.

And besides Ms. Christopher said, “it’s really theater. It’s superb!” On a personal level Mr. Davis said viewing the democratic process had reinforced for him, “that we can be a great country.” Ms. Christopher added that she had actually attended Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a Dream Speech” in 1963, and that the election of Barack Obama really symbolizes how far we’ve come.


In the audience was at least one other person who had heard Mr. King’s famous speech in person. Pamela Harris, a Southampton resident was a ten-year-old child when she walked the Poor People’s March on Washington in 1963. She sat with tears in her eyes as she watched the live coverage.

“I am beside myself here. I can’t believe this is happening in my lifetime,” said Ms. Harris. “When I was a child there were people in America who were being killed because they had the audacity to go out and vote. When I was growing up in this country there were no black people on TV. If one came on it was such an event we’d call people to let them know.”

Her friend Rita White, of Southampton said, “I really see this as a new beginning. A positive beginning that brings everyone together in American and in the world. My cousins in Germany told me I had to vote for Obama!”

White recalled being a child in Brooklyn with a German mother during World War II, and being stoned in the street because of their heritage, despite the fact they were American. She said it was most important to her that people didn’t continue to judge each other by their differences, and that this president symbolized this promise for the future.

Michel Mazuret, originally from France but currently an East Hampton resident, said he had to come to Bay Street to watch this event with a crowd because, “this is an exciting moment. All of Europe is having a big party today. Everybody over there is watching and listening. We need this big change for the planet.”

Audience members sitting around him nodded in agreement, as they watched yet more people pour into the theater. At one point there was a line of people waiting to get in, and theater management opened up the rehearsal space at the top and pushed some chairs together so more people could fit in safely.

As Obama took the oath of office several people wept and held on to the person seated next to them, as he finally became the president, the crowd stood up and, roared its approval for at least a minute. People were screaming and shouting with joy. His greatly anticipated inaugural speech silenced the crowd as they nodded approvingly to the President’s statement that “our common humanity will reveal itself” and that “we’ve chosen hope over fear.” Occasionally breaking out into applause or words of assent.

After his speech the audience stood and joined together in a heart-felt national anthem. With continuing smiles, and hugs of farewell many people left after that. However several people lingered in the afterglow of the jubilant proceedings.

Katharine Battle, a community activist and Sag Harbor resident, commented, “How good it was to have a president who is articulate. Especially one who could articulate the specific issues of our generation.”

Liz Oldak, a Pierson Sophomore who attended the viewing with her parents, would certainly agree with Ms. Battle. She said originally she wasn’t that involved with the presidential election, but once she heard that the then Senator Obama was proposing to have a Secretary of Technology she got more involved because she felt this candidate really understood what was important in the present and the future. She also said her parents had almost nightly discussions with her about Presidents Obama’s historic significance.


East End Digest, January 15

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Stony Brook Southampton

Bay Street Co-Founders Create New Programs at Stony Brook

Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Writing and Literature Program announced two new initiatives for 2009: a Playwriting Conference as part of the Southampton Writers Conference, and the Young American Writers Project, an interdisciplinary writing program for middle and high school students.
The Playwriting Conference will be directed by Stephen Hamilton and Emma Walton Hamilton, co-founders of the Bay Street Theatre. The conference will run concurrently with the Children’s Literature, Southampton Writers, and Screenwriting conferences, in three sessions from July 8 to August 2. Established and emerging playwrights will have the opportunity to develop their work in a collaborative setting with professional actors, directors and members of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Three graduate credits are available to eligible students in each conference.
“When Stony Brook acquired the Southampton campus, we promised to build real strength in the arts,” Robert Reeves, director of the MFA in Writing and Literature program said. “We are proud to be able to carry out that mandate by broadening our programs. We are also thrilled that Emma and Steve accepted our invitation to become the newest members of the MFA program.”
For seventeen years, Stephen Hamilton served as the Theatre’s Executive Director and produced over 50 productions. Emma Walton Hamilton is a theater professional and arts educator, as well as a best-selling author and editor. Until 2008 she was Director of Education and Programming for Young Audiences, and spearheaded the Young Playwrights Program in area schools.
In addition to the new Playwriting Conference, Stony Brook Southampton’s will also establish the Young American Writers Project (YAWP). The inaugural YAWP program, focusing on playwriting, will be offered to middle schoolers in the spring of 2009. The YAWP curriculum calls for teaching artists to visit designated classrooms twice weekly during a two-month period, guiding students to create and develop their own plays. One play from each participating class will be produced at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater in April of 2009. Among participating schools in the inaugural YAWP program for 2009 are: Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, and Eastport South Manor.

Inaug. Invite

Several local students will attend the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20 in Washington, D.C. Jocelin Kalish of Bridgehampton was invited to attend by the University Presidential Inaugural Conference. Kalish is an alumni of the National Youth Leadership Forum and was the valedictorian of Bridgehampton High School last year. Fellow Bridgehampton graduate, Eddie Gholson is working for Ultimate Staffing and will help chaperone a group of children around D.C. and accompany them to the inauguration ceremony for the company. Ross tenth grade students Spencer Kuzon and Devon Leaver will also be in attendance. Kuzon and Leaver will participate in the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference from Saturday, January 17 to Wednesday, January 21. This five-day program provides students with a deeper understanding of the electoral process and its history, as well as the traditions surrounding the presidential inauguration.

Harbor Committee
“Mary E” Sails Elsewhere for Home

After months of dialogue between the owners of the “Mary E” schooner and the village Harbor Committee board, the board has finally decided to deny the owners request to permanently dock the schooner on Long Wharf. Although, the decision ultimately lies with the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, the Harbor Committee agreed to draft a letter to the board recommending the denial of the owners request. During a committee meeting on Monday, January 12, Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait cited the owners lack of a comprehensive plan for upland support for the “Mary E” as the primary reason for the refusal of their petition. The owners of the “Mary E” sought to run a charter sailing business from the boat. Tait said at a previous meeting that parking would need to be provided for charter clients.
Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees member, Ed Deyermond swung by the meeting to treat the committee members to an update on the Keyspan/National Grid remediation project in the village. Deyermond said there wasn’t much to report as the project is on somewhat of a hiatus due to a delay in the shipment of equipment, specifically a tent.

East Hampton
Farmers Market

The Peconic Land Trust is requesting proposals for usage of the
farmland adjacent to the Amagansett Farmers Market located on Main
Street, Amagansett. The farmland consists of 5.7 acres of conserved
land that the Trust anticipates leasing in early 2009 with the idea
of integrating the produce into the Amagansett Farmer’s Market.
Interested parties are asked to submit a letter of interest to Pam
Greene, the Director of Stewardship, by February 1. A formal proposal
will be requested from those submissions. The formal proposal will
require a business plan and land use plan for the farm. For more
information call 283-3195.

SH Rotary Club
Inter. Grants

Kevin Luss, President of the Southampton Rotary Club has announced that Rotary International (RI) has approved a matching grant application, submitted by Southampton Rotary and the Rotary Club of Guntur (India). The approved matching grant, sponsored by the Southampton, Northport and Riverhead Rotary Clubs, will be used to finance the purchase of equipment that is critical in the medical mission being undertaken by International Surgical Mission Support, a group of local doctors who will be traveling to the NRI General Hospital, located in Andhra Pradesh, India.
During their short stay in India, the doctors will conduct several hundred medical screenings and life saving surgical procedures and will leave the newly purchased equipment with the local medical center.
Southampton Rotary will coordinate the project internationally, while the Rotary Club of Guntur will coordinate on a local level. The total grant budget for this project is equivalent to $62,000.

New Dem. Chair

The Southampton Town Democratic Committee has unanimously elected Gordon Herr to succeed retiring Chairman Mike Anthony.
Anthony assured the committee that he was not leaving and would still play a significant role in the Democratic Party. He added that working with Gordon Herr for the past few years gave him full confidence that his efforts would be built upon for even greater Southampton Town Democratic Party achievements in the future.

Suffolk County
New EPA Chair

Legislator Jay Schneiderman has been named chair of the County’s
Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee (EPA) by presiding
Officer William Lindsay for the second year in a row. Schneiderman
has a background in science education and has been involved with
numerous environmental initiatives including land preservation and
water quality protection. Schneiderman currently has a bill pending
before the EPA committee that would establish a county-wide setback
from wetlands for fertilizer application. “Nitrogen and phosphorus
from fertilizers are contributing to nutrient overload in our bays
and harbors,” claims Schneiderman, “this is causing algal blooms that
are devastating shellfish populations and other marine life.”
Schneiderman believes the new law will be adopted earlier this year.