COLUMBIA, SC — Several graduates of a once-segregated Columbia high school who braved cold and a huge crowd to help President Barack Obama celebrate his historic inauguration in 2009 say they will be staying home for his second inaugural ceremony, set for Jan. 21.
Age or other circumstances, not waning support for the president, are keeping some who traveled with a 2009 group of C.A. Johnson High School graduates from returning in January.
“I decided, at my age, I think I’ll watch it on TV,” said Sallie Clark Nicholson, 69, sister of Delores Clark Washington, who organized the 2009 trip.
Nicholson recalled riding the subway, navigating tunnels and standing far away from the president on that chilly January day in 2009.
Still, her group was “fairly close” and “felt the emotion of (Obama’s) speech,” she said. “It was worth it.”
Not going to Washington next month has more to do with the weather and not wanting to wait in lines than it does with her feelings about the president, Nicholson said.
“I’m even more enthused about (Obama’s) next four years,” she said. “He started out then to do a great job. He’ll be able to get a lot of what he wanted done.”
Washington, 76, also won’t be attending the president’s second inauguration. The Columbia resident said she would go again if she were not already planning a trip Washington at another time with her granddaughters. It’s impractical for her to do both, she said.
Obama’s 2009 inaugural ceremony, the swearing in of the nation’s first African-American president, attracted the largest audience of any event in Washington, D.C., according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Fewer people are expected at the 57th inaugural ceremony, but the S.C. Democratic Party has received more than 1,000 requests for tickets, distributed by the members of the state’s congressional delegation.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s office has about 200 tickets to distribute. But requests exceeded that number by Thanksgiving, said Caroline Delleney, spokeswoman for the Springdale Republican. As a result, the 200 tickets will be distributed through a lottery.
In 2009, Washington’s son Russell Washington, 50, drove to Washington from Columbia with his father and uncle, both in their 70s.
The men were “emotionally overwhelmed” as they watched the president speak, standing within a stone’s throw of the stage, said Washington, who is not going to Obama’s second inauguration.
“I saw the fruits of their decades-long aspiration, and I’m satisfied,” Washington said.
C.A. Johnson graduate James Grant also attended in 2009 with his late wife, Alice.
Grant enjoyed “being a part of history.” But this year, added the 78-year-old Columbia resident, “It’s not the right time for me to go.”
Grant recalled experiencing the trials of living in a segregated society as a youth growing up in South Carolina. On his three-mile walk to school, he would pass white schools and buses filled with white children who would heckle him.
Grant said he has “no hard feelings” over those times, adding, “I can appreciate what I have now.”
Asked whether the president deserves any of the blame for the political gridlock in Washington, Grant said Obama “did as good a job as he could do, given the situation he was placed in,” facing “relentless opposition.”
“He couldn’t be as forceful as he needed to be on some issues,” Grant said, adding that he would like that to change.
‘Come out and be healed’
Jocelyn Clarkson, 60, a medical technologist at Palmetto Health Richland, traveled with the C.A. Johnson group in 2009, and she is going to Obama’s second inauguration, too.
Clarkson is going with a group of students and families from Brookland Baptist Church College Ministry.
Being there again in January is “important because it’s such a positive thing, for African-American people especially, to see the progress that we’ve made and the support that (Obama has) gotten from so many groups of people.”
Like Grant, Clarkson also said Obama faced opposition during his first four years in office because of his race.
“(P)eople have to recognize a lot of it is still there,” she said. “It needs attention. It needs to come out and be healed.”
SC in the Inaugural Parade
SC groups marching in the 57th Presidential Inaugural parade include the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission from Charleston. Part of the National Park Service, the cultural heritage corridor extends along the coast from Wilmington, NC, to Jacksonville, Fla.
The U.S. Army Reserves 81st Regional Support Command Wildcats from Fort Jackson also will provide a World War I historical color guard in the parade
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