Riverwesters Reflect:

Where Were You When the aradigm Shifted – Part II … on the morning of inauguration, thousands of folks stood patiently, obediently, and quietly in line waiting for our gates to open, clutching our precious purple tickets. Every once in a while someone would start a chant of “O-BA-MA!” or “Fire it up, ready to go!” But the chants would die out in 10-20 seconds from lack of response. Instead what we found in our section was a sense of entitlement. “I’ve been here since 5 am and you cannot cut in front of me”… “I’m going to call my brother about this…he’s an agent!” Some people started to get claustrophobic and paranoid: “I gotta get out of here…what if someone does something crazy?”  But also, out of this chaos, community began to emerge. A young guy from California discovered that the logjam of people emerging from the metro was trying to get past us but getting stuck. He suggested we open a channel for them to pass through so we could also move. He enlisted help and 8 or 10 of us coached a line of pedestrians past our section. “Come on through! Watch your step…Single file…Keep moving!” we urged. This spontaneous grassroots effort shifted the energy and made it flow, made us active instead of passive, and helped others in need.  …Where do we plan to go from here? Will we stand like cows at the inauguration gate, comfortable in our privilege and level of entitlement while getting nowhere? Will we watch Obama from afar and criticize him for not enough change fast enough?  Will we withdraw into our cocoons, hypnotizing ourselves with cable TV and Facebook, smug in our electoral success?  The Obamas are in the (White) house. What will we create together? How will we transform chaos into community? Who dares to stop us now? – Peggy Hong  Standing next to the Washington Monument, shivering my ass off and grinning like an idiot. J. Jason Groschopf  I was in my car, listening to Obama’s speech on NPR. The light was red at Halyard & North and a young man was waiting for the bus, so I cranked my radio, rolled down the window and said you gotta listen to this! He came to the car. The light changed and I asked where he was going. He told me and I said get in the car, I’d take him. We sat there, side by side, total strangers – a young black man and middle aged white lady, holding hands and listening to the speech. My tears were flowing freely! When we got to his house, he hugged and thanked me and got out of the car. What an amazing experience! (I think it took a lot of courage on his part to get into a stranger’s car and trust that I’d take him to his destination – I sure wouldn’t have!) Sally Nordstrom  Great hope is the bane of great change. If all we do is hope for change, then change will surely not come. But if we work for change, then the change has already begun. What we witness today is a president who will open the door for us; but who cannot usher in change single handily. We, collectively are the change agents, if we choose to use this opportunity to do so. Let’s resolve to do so and make our country and our community a better place for all. Michael Soika, Executive Director, YMCA-Urban Campus  I watched the inauguration with 60 bilingual sixth grade students. Usually when we watch movies they spend their time chatting and goofing off and the teachers get really annoyed. But when Obama was on the television they were completely silent and focused. Many of them are really hoping that Obama will help them become citizens so that they have the opportunity to go to college. I was amazed, proud, and hopeful for them and our country. Melissa Tempel  lauramakeremeberweb.jpgI was at work at Marquette Libraries and watched the inauguration on TV with co-workers who all brought treats. I was happy to be celebrating my first election I could vote in which Bush was not sworn in, hopeful that the next four years will bring promising change, yet sad that religion was still so present throughout the Inauguration. Carolyn Weber  “Unity to the highest power” was how one black celebrity described her experience among the grand throng that assembled for the Inauguration ceremony in the mall at Washington DC. Peace was the order of the day and no arrests were reported, proving that humanity has the power to manifest great goodwill and could be less shy about doing so. It was a great day for the nation and the world. Tess Reiss  Inauguration day 2009. I had no idea how moved I was going to be until I woke up, turned on the radio, realized what day it was and started to cry. I think being the member of a race that has been an opressor is damaging for the soul. As a white person I find it so healing to see my country prove that it really is the great nation that we all want it to be. Regardless of race Obama’s speech was great, I think we really might have chosen the best leader to get us through the hard times to come! Sarah Moore  When President Obama was sworn into office, I was sitting on the edge of a barricade that had found its way into the midst of the packed crowds on the far side of the reflecting pond. As I was balancing precariously on the edge of the barricade, and listening to President Obama repeat his vows, I thought of how that day, in just one day how far we had come and how far we had to go. During that day, we came across people who were open and willing to work together to make it into the ticketed area for inauguration as well as people who found everything to be negative because they were not getting what they had felt they were entitled to. I learned a lot that day about the power of joy and entitlement. Those who were negative had a sense of entitlement and privilege that they deserved to have certain expectations met, and when they were not met, they were not open to being creative and working with the situation. Those who refused to be overwhelmed by their own self-importance were able to enter joyously into all of the situations that they encountered and understood that they were blessed. This, I think, is what we are faced with in this new administration. A choice. Each of us individually. A choice of whether or not we want to confront our internal weaknesses and external challenges with self-important expectation or with a humble joy that anything given and received is a blessing. We have a hard few years ahead of us, and we must, individually and collectively choose each other. President Obama is one person, and he appears to have made that choice. But we must also choose the same – active reflective deliberate action – in order for the world to turn. Marcia  My first political act as a new resident of Mayagüez was to watch the inauguration with about 100 students and a few faculty and staff in the student center at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. I stayed long enough to watch the helicopter whisk the Bushes out of town – just to make sure. The next day, I had my students read aloud excerpts from Obama’s speech that were directly related to engineering (energy, technology, etc.). I suggested there has never been a more exciting time to be an engineer in Puerto Rico, that they could lead the movement to achieve complete energy and resource self-sufficiency for the island. Chris Papadopoulos