Valley residents prepare to attend historic inauguration



Sarah Brown-Clark should be on a tropical vacation cruise now.

Instead, the Youngstown clerk of courts will be outdoors Monday with thousands of others in Washington, D.C., to observe history.

Brown-Clark, a member of Ohio’s Electoral College, will attend Democratic President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

“I canceled my vacation plans,” she said. “You can go on vacation any time, but you can’t do this any time.”

Brown-Clark didn’t attend Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 — an event that attracted a record crowd of 1.8 million people. The crowd estimate for Monday’s swearing-in is expected to be less than half of that.

“I’m not a cattle-call person,” she said. “I don’t like huge crowds and waiting in line. I don’t like that, but I’ll do that for [Obama] and for history and to tell my grandkids that I was there.”

Others are less enthused.

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, and his wife, Michele Lepore Hagan, were at Obama’s first inauguration and are returning this year.

“I’m reluctant to go,” the representative said. “It was ridiculously cold [in 2009]. We had hand warmers and scarves and we were still freezing. We were 1,000 yards out the last time. We strained to see everything. We had binoculars.”

The temperature reached 28 degrees and windy in D.C. during Obama’s first inauguration. The forecast calls for higher temperatures, but it’s still winter in Washington.

Despite the weather and crowd, Hagan said the 2009 event “was very exciting even if you were a mile away. The historic element of going to the first inauguration of an African-American president is important and the last one is too. There’s a little less enthusiasm and excitement this year, but it’s still historic and glamorous and exciting. It’s what we worked our butts off to make happen. We like to see the fruits of our labor and work.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras was asked to go but is skipping it after the long campaign.

“To be honest with you, I’d rather go skiing,” said Betras, who is doing exactly that.

This is U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s third presidential inauguration. The first for Ryan of Niles, D-13th, was Republican George W. Bush’s 2005 inauguration.

“Bush’s inauguration was cool, but the memorable one was the first Obama” inauguration, he said. “The amount of people there is incredible. I’m Catholic, so I like the ritual, the formality of it.”

As a congressman, Ryan sits behind the president during the inauguration looking over the crowd, “seeing the hundreds of thousands of people there.”

It’s a rare day in Washington, Ryan said, because “everyone is nice to each other for a day.”

A group of 52 members of United Auto Workers Local 1714 at the Lordstown General Motors complex are chartering a bus late tonight and are spending Monday celebrating the inauguration.

“As autoworkers, we’ve had a very tough four years” because of the financial problems of GM before the Obama-led auto bailout, said David Green, UAW Local 1714 president. “President Obama was a key figure in saving our jobs. We have a lot of

people interested in going. This is my first inauguration. Hopefully, we’ll come back and feel energized and excited. It’s important we’ve got a guy in the White House who supports us.”

Green, an active surrogate for Obama during the presidential campaign in the Mahoning Valley, said he’s excited to attend the inauguration.

“I’m going to soak in the moment,” he said. “It’s our victory and we want to enjoy it.”

As she did in 2009, Mary Monroe of Youngstown, an Obama campaign volunteer, is organizing a trip to this inauguration. About 45 people will get on a bus leaving the Liberty Township administration building shortly after midnight Monday and return that night.

“This year is kind of a double-day as we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and the inauguration of Barack Obama,” Monroe said.

Despite the low temperature in 2009, Monroe said, “I don’t remember being cold. There was so much excitement in the air.”

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