The January 20 inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama was a big event nationally, but some members of the University of San Diego community had the chance to see firsthand that the world was following â€” and celebrating â€” the transition of presidential power in the United States, too.
Community Service-Learning Assistant Director John Loggins and several students spent three weeks in the northern region of Uganda for an immersion service trip, but it didnâ€™t prevent them from seeing Obamaâ€™s inauguration ceremony.
Loggins and five USD students, including Peace and Justice Studies graduate student Tanya Susoev (seen here with Loggins while holding an item of fabric celebrating Obama) paid 50,000 schillings ($25 U.S.) to attend an Obama inauguration party (see ticket) at a Sheraton hotel in Kampala. Loggins said they took a taxi ride to the event and the cab driverâ€™s radio was tuned to a panel discussion about Obama and his presidency. When the group arrived, they realized the radio discussion was taking place at the party.
As 300 people watched the inauguration on CNN the USD group found themselves involved in the Ugandansâ€™ celebration.
â€œThey quickly identified us in the crowd as Americans and they had us stand up and gave us an ovation for helping get Obama elected,â€ Loggins said.
While the Uganda trip conflicted with Loggins’ desire to be in Washington, D.C., for the big event, he convinced himself it would be more interesting to be in an African country on inauguration day.
â€œBeing there was incredible,â€ he said of Uganda, where he found bumper stickers supporting Obama (see photo) and other mementos. â€œObamaâ€™s speech was directed toward an American audience, but you could see the emotion and pride felt by the Ugandans. I felt this is where I needed to be. This is a story I can to tell others. When Obama was sworn in, I can say I was in Uganda. Being there, I got to see how powerful it was, not only for Americans, but also for the world.â€
â€œAt about 11:30 a.m. (Eastern Time) I was down in the usually bustling Duncans town square, and it was a ghost town,â€ said USD sociology associate professor and Department Chair Rafik Mohamed, who was in Jamaica on a three-week service immersion trip. â€œAs I walked into Chenâ€™s Market, the townâ€™s grocery store, I asked someone where everyone was and they pointed up to the small television on the wall tuned to CNN.â€
Mohamed and a few USD students watched the inauguration ceremony in the living room of the house where they stayed during the trip.
In downtown Montego Bay, he said, thousands viewed the inauguration ceremony on a large TV screen in Sam Sharpe Square, named after a Jamaican slave who led a rebellion in the early 1800s.
The Jamaicansâ€™ interest in the new president was an easy conversation starter for Mohamed when he met new people. â€œThe first thing they wanted to talk about was Barack Obama.â€
USD professors David Hay and Cameron Parker, overseeing London/Oxford classes in English and Math, respectively, gathered with students to watch the inauguration with bread and cheese and, for Hay, a celebratory glass of wine.
â€œWe wept and cheered, but mostly we sat in silence, rather in awe of what we were watching, what was being said and what this all meant,â€ Hay said. â€œWhen Diane Feinstein asked everyone to stand for the oath, Cameron and I stood. We were all very moved.â€
Hay said Obamaâ€™s inauguration was the talk of London, but it wasnâ€™t the only reason for their excitement.
â€œObama is scheduled to visit London in April, and people are already talking about going and the enormous crowds that are expected to gather to see him.â€
â€” by Ryan T. Blystone