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Presidential Inauguration at the Palace Theater

Beth Croughan

Pamela Hunter sat in the Palace Theater and watched as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. And although Hunter was hundreds of miles away from the action on the mall in the nation’s capitol, she felt closer to the White House than ever before. “My son can be president…It’s amazing, just amazing.”

And Pamela wasn’t alone. Hundreds of others from the Syracuse area filled the seats in the Palace Theater on James Street to celebrate the historic inauguration of the nation’s first Black president.

The event was organized by The Onondaga County Democrats, but was open to everyone. People of all ages and races were in attendance, sitting in movie-theater style seats, enjoying popcorn and watching C-SPAN on a large projection screen. Fern Whyland, the former Executive Director of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, said she organized the event to give people a place to celebrate the historic day. She said she hoped that everyone in attendance walked away with a sense of community and a feeling that they were all in it together. And most people echoed her call.

John Carr of Eastwood came to the Palace Theater with his 8-year-old daughter, Calee Ann. She was home sick from school, but decided to share the day with her dad at the theater. Sitting together in the back, John, with Calee Ann, proudly showed off his Lyndon B. Johnson pin and said he hoped “that people understand change does take time and that it is the first step for our country. We should give our kids the future we were promised.”

Theresa Mohamed of Manlius also went to the Palace Theater to watch the inauguration with her family; her husband Farouq and their son Hemed. Theresa said she wanted to be with other people to be apart of something bigger. And Hemed, who was leaving for college shortly after the inauguration, said that not only did he enjoy the time he was spending with his family, but that today was a proud day for Americans, so “what better way to spend it, but with other Americans, here in Central New York.”

Onondaga County Legislator Tom Buckel was also in attendance. He spent nearly two years working on the Obama campaign and said he was proud to see the culmination of so much hard work and effort, but noted that “…this is only the beginning, this is not the end, and we don’t just go home and rely on our President. It’s a time when we walk out of here, roll up our sleeves and attack the kind of issues that we have to confront here. We’re not just going to rely on others to do this.”

And while many of the people at the theater would have loved to witness history with a front row seat in Washington D.C., Don Pineger and his wife Edie, said they wouldn’t have been anywhere else, “you look at the crowds in D.C. and I think we have a great seat right here…”

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