North Dakotans watch inaugurationWoody Gagnon joined others at a Bismarck nursing home who shunned bingo and gathered around televisions to watch President-elect Barack Obama take the oath of office. At Mrs. Heather Solig’s second-grade class at Will Moore School, children colored pictures while listening to Obama’s speech Tuesday. The students said the new president has a tough job to do but said his two young daughters are lucky because they get to use the built-in bowling alley at the White House.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Woody Gagnon joined others at a Bismarck nursing home who shunned bingo and gathered around televisions to watch President-elect Barack Obama take the oath of office.
At Mrs. Heather Solig’s second-grade class at Will Moore School, children colored pictures while listening to Obama’s speech Tuesday. The students said the new president has a tough job to do but said his two young daughters are lucky because they get to use the built-in bowling alley at the White House.
“If I was in the White House, I’d be going bowling every day,” said 7-year-old Paige Griak.
The historic day was not lost on North Dakotans, young or old.
“I think it’s really great because he’s the first black president we’ve had in the 44 times we’ve had a president,” said 8-year-old Colby Conmy.
Jordan Iverson said it’s “really cool” that Obama was elected as the nation’s first black president, but the 7-year-old also thinks it will be a hard job, “making laws, writing paperwork and giving speeches.”
The Will Moore students wrote in their journals about the inauguration, and practiced writing that word and the new president’s name.
“It’s a big deal and we’re making it a big deal,” their teacher said.
The children also colored pictures that depicted everything from American flags to the Obama family standing in front of the White House. One student drew a souped-up presidential limousine with a stick-figured Obama smiling and waving out the rear window.
At the Baptist Home in Bismarck, Gagnon said he has listened to every inaugural address since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also voted for Roosevelt and every Democratic presidential candidate since then.
Gagnon, 94, began watching coverage of the inauguration early Tuesday morning.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.
“I never thought I’d see a black president — not in my lifetime,” said Gagnon, who served as chief of staff for former North Dakota Gov. Arthur Link. “It’s unbelievable.”
Gagnon said no other president since FDR has taken over the job facing as many challenges. The presidents share some of the same mannerisms, he said.
“They both have that big smile,” he said.
He was buoyed by Obama’s speech.
“I thought it was as good as Roosevelt’s or Kennedy’s, and that says a lot,” Gagnon said. “He was trying to convey to us and the world that we are not giving up no matter what, and I liked that.”
Renata Graham, 87, also a resident of the nursing home, said she doubted anyone from her parents’ generation would have voted for a black president, even if they were Democrats.
“They lived in different times,” said Graham, a former housewife and retired fry cook.
She voted for Obama because of his views, not his race, she said, and she believes he is a positive and healing change for the country.
“As old as I am, I didn’t think I’d see the day we’d have a black president,” she said. “I look forward to the change and I hope I live long enough to enjoy it.”
Graham said some people still may harbor the same prejudices.
“Some whites are not going to be accepting of him all the way, but I think he will be good for them,” she said.
Jedd Susag is one of two teachers at the Marmarth school, which has 11 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The one-room school is in Slope County, in North Dakota’s southwest corner. The county is 99.3 percent white, the highest percentage in the country, according to Census Bureau figures. Slope County also has the distinction of being one of the nation’s least populated counties. It has about 700 residents, county officials say.
Susag said the school has no cable television and cannot pick up TV stations without it. The nearest station is 210 miles away, in Dickinson. So he taped the inauguration in his home, where he has cable, and planned to show it to the students Wednesday.
All students at the Marmarth school are white. Susag said it doesn’t matter that Obama is black.
“I would have done it for any president,” Susag, a first-year teacher, said of the taping. “I think they should know what it is to have history happen in their lifetime, and let them know they are a part of history.”