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Throwback Thursday: Inauguration anticipation from Barack Obama to Joe Biden

(Daily Bruin archive)

By Joseph Armani

Jan. 28, 2021 2:38 p.m.

More than a decade ago, former President Barack Obama gave his first inaugural address.

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. … But know this America: They will be met,” Obama said.

Flash forward to last week – President Joe Biden looked out to 330 million Americans – virtually – and issued a similar promise:

“We face an attack on democracy and on truth. A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis. America’s role in the world,” Biden said. “Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities. Now we must step up.”

When Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the Bruin community came together to watch the inauguration live, according to a Daily Bruin article from Jan. 21, 2009.

The inauguration’s historic status owes itself to many achievements, namely Obama’s being the first Black president in American history. Bruins watching the inauguration live on campus had much to say about what the moment meant for them.

In the article, Daily Bruin senior staff reporter Theresa Avila interviewed third-year physiological science student Dayo Akinyemi, who said Obama’s inauguration highlighted great change not only in Washington but in the whole world.

“(Obama’s inauguration) is signifying that we’re breaking down barriers that were put up before,” Akinyemi said. “It’s just like … anything is possible.”

While some Bruins gathered at Ackerman Union, others made the approximately 3,000-mile journey to the capital from Westwood to watch the inauguration, according to another article by The Bruin in 2009.

In the article, Daily Bruin contributor Christopher Mastrangelo interviewed fourth-year political science student Pardis Farhadian who missed school to attend the inauguration live in Washington, D.C.

“It was the most memorable thing I’ve ever done even though it was totally freezing,” Farhadian said. “(Obama) is such a powerful speaker that if he were to start speaking gibberish I think people would think he was right.”

Students this year were unable to experience this awe in person. In place of raving crowds witnessing Biden being sworn in were seats spread apart to ensure social distancing and arrays of American flags in the rest of the area. Americans came together not through crowds at Capitol Hill, but through phone, computer and TV screens from the comforts of their homes.

Mastrangelo also interviewed second-year political science student Janou Gordon who campaigned for Obama in Texas and Nevada as a member of Bruins for Obama.

“It is awesome to see this many people coming together from all over the country,” Gordon said. “(Obama is) someone to light that fire in people so they can bring about change themselves.”

Eight years after Obama’s first term came former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration. The Bruin captured UCLA students flooding the streets of Westwood and citizens rallying at Los Angeles City Hall, despite heavy rain, in protest of the new administration.

Daily Bruin senior staff Jeong Park and Daily Bruin contributor Daniel Maraccini reported on the almost 250-person crowd that had gathered in Westwood on Jan. 20, 2017, after Trump was sworn in.

Park and Maraccini interviewed fourth-year physiological science student Sarah Harianja on the protests.

“For a while, I just stood back,” Harianja said. “I’m more of a pacifist, but I’ve learned that sitting down is not the answer. You have to stand up and fight back because if you don’t say anything, then nothing will change.”

Such sentiments have not faded. The past year has seen the Black Lives Matter movement, which started in 2013, gain more traction, particularly because of Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee out of protest in 2016 and the death of George Floyd in May.

Additionally, a decade ago, Obama and the American people could not have known that 2020 and the start of 2021 would be marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, one that is especially proving a threat to the homeless and those living in overcrowded homes.

Besides the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop to the inauguration, Americans also stood wary of looming threats of violence and increased political polarization. Now that Biden has been inaugurated, he has inherited not only the Oval Office but the responsibility of combatting these crises. According to a CBS News Poll, most Americans feel scared but hopeful for the year that lies ahead.

Albeit from far away, watching the inauguration on TV and online akin to the Bruins at Ackerman Union in 2009 may still foster the same anticipation for what the coming year has in store for America.


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Joseph Armani
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