Jan 20, 2009

Obama Rolls up sleeves, receives role of president

by Mitchell Malcheff, News Reporter

 Somewhere between 1.5 and three million people are expected to converge on Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. With his oath upon the same Bible used during President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

Associate Government Professor and College Republican Advisor Steven Witham said that he has never seen an inauguration or election comparable to this one in terms of its historical importance and national attention.

“I don’t know if I can give you anything original,” Witham said. “Every inauguration is a special event … beyond that, there’s a heightened level of interest in this campaign.”

Witham went on to say that the only inauguration he believed shares any similarities is the 1961 election of John F. Kennedy. The difference between Kennedy and Obama, according to Witham, lies in what their respective presidencies signify.

Obama’s election is occurring during what many economists believe is the nation’s worst market downturn since the Great Depression. Joel Krautter, co-founder and vice-president of Liberty’s College Democrats, believes that the economy should be issue number one in the “politically blue” White House.

“The economic crisis is the number one thing,” Krautter said. “We (students) are going to be coming out of college in a few years and we’re going to need jobs and that’s all dependent on the economy.”
Witham warns, however, that any economic action taken now could have far-reaching effects.

“In our haste to do something, we need to ask, will this work and what are the consequences,” Witham said.

Witham also added that “there’s going to be a tremendous push for rapid passage of an incredibly large economic package. There’s probably a general feeling in the country to see if the government can stimulate the economy.”

With another large stimulus package on the horizon and a largely Democratic Congress behind Obama ready to grease the political wheels, Krautter believes the role of republicans in a democratic administration is to play devil’s advocate.

“When they (Republicans) see a policy that Obama’s administration presents, they shouldn’t hesitate to support it out of partisanship, but they should move to do what is best for the country… they should continue to hold onto their beliefs, but in a time like this we should put partisanship behind us,” he said.

Despite the flagging economy, costs for the inauguration are expected to rise as high as $150 million, nearly three times that of President Bush’s inauguration. The inauguration will air live in the Vines Center beginning at 11 a.m. Local celebrations are also taking place at 14 area locations from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Volunteers with the Community Dialogue on Race and Racism organized the free inauguration-watching events.

“Hopefully, everyone can come together to see this historic event and enjoy and celebrate,” volunteer Frank Elbertson told the Lynchburg News and Advance. “This is a first (for our action group) and it’s a small step toward what we’re trying to achieve, but it’s a great beginning.”

Campbell County EMS and the Lynchburg Police Department are among many rescue and police units that will aid Washington during the inauguration. According to the News & Advance, Campbell County EMS will back up the city of Alexandria’s fire and rescue units.

Contact Mitchell Malcheff at

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