Politics & Government

Nolan students thrilled to see history

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Teacher James Walker spearheaded an effort to allow every class at his school to watch Tuesday’s inaugural ceremonies, so his young students might always remember the day.

“It’s such a historic event, I wanted my students to be able to look back after 20 years and say, ‘I saw it,’ ” said Walker, a seventh-grade teacher at R. Dan Nolan Middle School.

“I want them to be able to say, ‘I remember where I was when the first biracial president was inaugurated.’ ”

That’s how the giant video screen ended up in the cafeteria, where students could watch all the action. Every classroom TV also was tuned to inaugural ceremonies for the 44th U.S. president, Barack Obama.

The students really did seem to understand it was an important moment for the nation — and for them, personally, too.

“He’s cool, and I’m a Democrat,” said Dmitry Smith, 12, a sixth-grader at the school who was watching in the cafeteria. “He inspires me because he’s about to be the first African-American president. It’s such a big change.”

His tablemates were joking because at Halloween, Smith, who bears a physical similarity to the 44th president, dressed up as the Democratic candidate. One of his friends who was supporting the Republican presidential ticket, Cayla Miraglia, 11, dressed up as vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

But even though her preferred candidates lost the election, Miraglia was not disappointed that Obama was being sworn in.

“I think he’s going to do a good job,” she said. “He deserves it.”

A similar note was struck by Kaitlyn Shaw, 12, a seventh-grader who wore a McCain/Palin button.

“I think it’s pretty cool that we get to watch it,” she said as her class sat, transfixed, during the inauguration ceremony. “I think it’s important we get to see it.

“I liked McCain better, but I’m glad Obama won, and I want everybody to support him,” she added.

When Vice President Joe Biden took the inaugural oath of office, teacher Jaimi Lowe’s class stood up to greet the moment with respectful silence, then erupted in applause when it was over. Lowe, who had joined Walker in advocating school-wide viewing of the inauguration, said her young charges were excited and had peppered her with questions about the new president and vice president.

Kayla Gray, a seventh-grader, was born decades after 1963, when The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed his dream of racial equality near where Obama’s inauguration took place Tuesday.

The 13-year-old said she was thinking about the vision of the slain civil rights leader as she watched Obama prepare to take the presidential oath.

“I think it’s a very good, historic moment for us kids,” she said. “To have the first African-American president, it’s a great sight to see.”