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OBAMA ushers in new era

Lake Oswego residents take part in historic inauguration of nation's first black president
by: PHOTO COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES, In his first speech as U.S. commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama encouraged the masses to “begin the work of remaking America” at his inauguration Tuesday.

Being on the capitol lawn for the inauguration of President Barack Obama sure beats reading about democracy in a textbook.

Lake Oswego High School freshman Andrew Porter certainly thinks so.

'I don't think I've ever witnessed an event of this magnitude. To be there at such a critical moment in our nation's history is just … wow,' he said.

Back in June of 2008, Porter, an alum of one of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council conferences, was invited to attend their inaugural conference, which takes place every four years. Obama was only a candidate at that time, so Porter didn't necessarily choose to go because Obama won. Either way he figured he'd be seeing history taking place - either he'd see the first black president or the first female vice president being sworn in.

But with Obama now securely at the helm, Porter's pretty excited. He agrees with Obama's economic policy as well as his educational views.

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'It's really important to see what decisions are being made and how that will affect my studies,' he said.

On Tuesday, he took a seat in the general admission section about a fourth of the way back from the capitol.

'We were able to see him a little bit but mostly watched him on the Jumbotron,' said Porter.

Porter was one of 15,000 youth who attended with the Congressional Youth Leader-ship Council. But that was just one group of youth.

Lake Oswego resident Wendy Bonds, People to People's area director for Oregon and Southwest Washington, attended the inauguration as one of 200 chaperones for 2,000 students. Her group didn't have tickets; they were just out on the mall with the people.

'Whenever anything came up on the Jumbotron, everyone was talking to Obama as if he was in their living room,' said Bonds. 'They were saying 'Amen' and 'Hallejuah' and commenting on the styles of what Michelle was wearing.'

Bonds works with Portland Public Schools through the Columbia Regional Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

'As soon as Obama came out … the crowd, the cheers the connection - it was absolutely electric,' said Bonds. 'It was really cold but you forget how cold you are.'

As Obama gave his inaugural speech and invited all Americans to be of service and participate in change in our country, the crowd was right there willing to go forward and make a commitment for change, said Bonds.

'Everyone was embracing his ideals and directions. It was like he was individually talking to every person standing in the mall. It was absolutely awesome.'

Mary Puskas, the director of Lake Oswego Community Schools, agreed that the highlight of her trip was Obama's speech.

'They're such a sense of celebration and hope,' she said.

Puskas met family there and between her brother who lives on Capitol Hill and her husband Doug Schmitz (former Lake Oswego city manager) they were able to get good seats for the inauguration.

'We got in line about 5 a.m., but we had tickets, so in reality we could have gotten in line much later,' said Puskas. 'We were seated in a good section and we could actually see the podium. People have just been wonderful. It's unbelieveably crowded but everyone has been so considerate.'

Puskas and her husband attended the Western Inaugural Ball later that night hoping to run into some people they might know, such as Kurt Schroeder and Darlene Hooley.

Lake Oswego High School alum Kari Chisholm, a local Internet strategist and political consultant for Democratic candidates, decided to skip the balls and go out to dinner with friends.

Chisholm was there partly on business meeting with out-of-state clients, but also joined in the excitement.

'I was also here in 1993, when Clinton was sworn in, and it's an extraordinary thing to be a part of history, to witness the peaceful transfer of power and to watch American democracy renew itself once again.'

Bonds said it was exciting for her to watch the kids understand democracy like that. During one of their lectures, Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, told the youngsters about attending her grandfather's inauguration and what it meant to her to be able to turn over power in peace.

They also got to hear Ruby Bridges, the first black child in an all-white school in the South, speak of his esperience. About half of the students with People to People are African American, said Bonds.

'They were just in tears over it, so I think that kind of energy continued on the mall. If Ruby Bridges can walk into a white school and Obama can be president, the possibilities are so open.'