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Teens were inspired when Barack Obama officially became President

L.A. Youth asked its teen staff to share their thoughts as Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States.

When I got to school I could feel the excitement in the air. I heard people talking about Barack Obama’s inauguration and people were wearing shirts with his face on it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to watch it, but when I got to my first class the TV was set up and showing the ceremony, as most classes were.
    I was amazed at how many people were at the inauguration. Like he said, “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” He really did bring this nation and world together. People from all over the world came to witness this event, which is amazing. It shows what impact he has on the world already. I really wish I had been able to go and actually be a part of this historical day. But I am glad I was able to live through this day and I’ll be able to talk about it for years to come.
    I couldn’t wait to see Obama sworn in and announced as our president and give his speech (link to full text). The speech was the part I was waiting for. His speech (link to video on YouTube) was phenomenal. “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
    He was confident and gave me a sense of hope for the change to come. He spoke about how this day is a milestone, how the world has to unite so there can be peace, and what has to be done to fix the economy.
    “Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.”
    I believe that he won’t help just the United States but everyone in the world. He definitely gave me hope that he will be able to fix the problems our nation is facing at this moment, from the economy to the war in Iraq and helping students afford college. He is an inspiration to everyone, especially minorities, and proof that anything is possible.
    I am glad that I was able to volunteer for his campaign and took some part in helping him become our president and help have this historical day come.I believe that he will change this world forever. I will never forget this day and I am glad that change has finally come to America.
Hennessy Valle, 17, El Camino Real HS (Woodland Hills)

What inspired me was Obama’s message to us: "So it must be with this
generation of Americans." Listening to his speech, I felt a mix of peace, inspiration, awe and anticipation. It seems like there’s a lot of pressure on him and work to be done. I hope President Obama and his administration will be prepared to handle the country’s problems.
Sharon Kim, 18, Beverly Hills HS

I had never been one to follow politics too closely before Barack Obama ran for president, but the prospect of witnessing such an important part of history led me to become interested. I was lucky enough to have a teacher who thought the inauguration was so important that he set up an assembly for the school to come watch it together in the auditorium. Obama’s speech did a particularly good job of acknowledging that America was going through a tough time, but also encouraging its citizens to rise up together and make a change. Even though I couldn’t be in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, with every cheer I felt as though I was right there. Obama gave me hope for a better future for America and I am proud to call him my president.
Melanie Boysaw, 17, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies

I have never known what it is like not to hate your president. I’ve grown up hearing and even thinking that the president shouldn’t be in office and how he is bringing our nation down. Although we’ve known since Nov. 4, 2008 that Barrack Obama was going to be our next president, it wasn’t until Tuesday, when I was sitting in my psychology final, that I saw him being sworn in, and I knew this was change.
    Seeing Obama place his had on that Bible and commit to being our country’s leader was amazing, but that wasn’t the part that will stand out as the greatest. Instead, it was seeing him address our newly united nation, not as our “president-elect” but as our 44th president.     I’ve never had as much hope as I do right now. I have never believed in my peers more than I do, and hearing “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” echo through Washington, D.C. brought chills down my spine because I know that there is hope for everyone and that it lies in each of us. For the first time I understood why America is great and it has inspired me to work harder not for myself, but for everyone, because the one thing I have learned through Obama’s campaign is that it’s not just one person who makes things happen, it is all of us as a whole.
    I wish I could have been one of the million-plus people standing in the crowds, but I know that it’s not about witnessing this in person. It has been about the whole journey from the beginning of this campaign to the four years that lie ahead. I’m inspired and I’m hopeful. YES WE CAN!
Devin Ruiz, 17, Ramona Convent (Alhambra)

Obama was everywhere Tuesday morning: on t-shirts, TVs and radios. As I heard my classmates talk about Obama, it seemed as though everyone was excited about our new president. Of course I was proud and pumped up as well, but not to the point of thinking that he was going to bring immediate results right after he placed his hand on the Bible. Sometimes I think that people are expecting way too much from Obama, and soon it will seem as though his promises weren’t adequately met. Some people make it seem as if America’s economic crisis and war situation will be resolved in minutes, paying more attention to the "change we can believe in" rather than the "it will take time" to accomplish this. When asked why they liked Obama, I was surprised to hear that the only answer many of my classmates could give was, “He can’t be worse than Bush.” I’m doing my best not to be the pessimist, but I’m also trying to be one who will not be sourly disappointed in President Obama.
Jisu Yoo, 16, Glendale HS

My school put up a big TV in our auditorium and the whole middle and high school watched the ceremony. Even though the location was pretty ordinary, I think I will remember where I was when Obama was sworn in, sort of like how people all know where they were when Kennedy was shot.
    Obama’s speech was really amazing and inspiring. It gave me hope for getting America out of all the trouble it is in right now. It made me feel patriotic and, for once, I care about politics. I think people expected Obama to deliver a moving speech, which he did (I felt my skin get goose-bumps, especially when he told the crowd, “We are ready to lead once more,” and a secretary and teacher were crying), it was very similar to previous speeches from the campaign (which is OK, it shows he believes in his plans).
    What I’m really looking forward to is seeing what Obama will do in office, I want him to start putting his plans into action! I’m also curious whether or not he lives up to his promises (they seem a little too ambitious sometimes, although not impossible).
    When they introduced Obama as the 44th president, at around noon, the room broke out in cheers and claps. The ceremony was all about Obama, so after he spoke it felt over, even though the poet read her inauguration poem and the preacher gave his prayer (he was funny when he said, “It’s OK for yellow to be mellow and for white to do what’s right.”)
    I can’t wait to see what Obama will start with—the economy? Education? As the next generation, his decisions impact us the most.
Gabe Andreen, 16, Pilgrim School

My school’s principal decided to initiate our own ceremony starting at 7 a.m. with live footage from CNN. He bought a large supply of bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and asked parents to donate juice for students who joined him. I arrived at 8:20 and walked into an open space filled with students attentively watching a wide projection coming from the principal’s laptop. It was boring to watch unfamiliar faces walk into the inauguration and take their seats but the moment we saw Barack Obama in front of the camera and march his way toward the podium, the audience went wild. Excited screams that sounded like “wooot-woots,” whistling and applauding filled the room and doubled when he took the oath, officially becoming our new president. I was overjoyed and couldn’t help but smile at the face of our hope. Listening to his speech made me so happy that Bush is finally out of the picture because Obama knows what he’s talking about. I am anticipating the future with our new leader and can’t wait for him to take us under his wing and bring change to all people.
Marisela Toro, 17, Animo Film & Theatre Arts Academy

When our very first black president gave his inauguration speech it was history in the making! I watched his speech during my second-period history class. In his speech, President Barack Obama took the big picture of America and told us what he wanted to do with it. I’m not sure if I understood all of it, but his words shot right through me. “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
    I think Obama is going to be a great president. He understands that there are no “shortcuts” in life and that we have to work for the greatness of America. He even says so during his speech, “In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.” It was the first time I had seen anything so breathtaking and historic, I can’t wait to see how he does as president of the United States.
Jennie Nguyen, 14, Wilson MS (Glendale)

In celebration of this historical day, I took part in planning an Obama Party at the Youth Leadership Center in the San Gabriel Valley. The M. Janet Chin Youth Foundation and the organization’s Youth Advisory Board hosted an inaugural potluck. About 50 teens from different schools came together to celebrate Obama’s victory and first official day as president of the United States.
    As part of the Youth Advisory Board, I spoke about what the past two days meant to me. With Monday being Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the youth advisory board members participated in a national day of service, which Obama encouraged. Tuesday, Obama was sworn in as president and to me it means I have a chance at my dreams as long as I believe and pursue them. I am truly inspired by Obama.
Amanda Ly, 17, Mark Keppel HS (Alhambra)

I was lucky enough to watch the inauguration of our president, Barack Obama, as it was happening. I wasn’t my sure my AP French teacher would allow us to watch it during second period, but I was very happily surprised when he asked me to set it up on the projector screen. Seeing the images of President Obama on the screen was incredibly exciting. His concise speech was, for lack of a better word, inspiring.
    Especially moving was his call to all Americans, saying “we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.”
    President Obama once again united our country with his words and managed to gracefully include what some of his imminent political decisions would be. I can’t help but hope that this new America is a truly inclusive one devoid of our recent paranoia. Welcome to true America!
Esteban Garcia, 17, Warren HS (Downey)

On Jan. 20, 2009 America saw its first African-American president, Barack Obama, take charge. In my classroom all my classmates and I crowded around the TV to hear President Obama’s speech. He said some things I had never heard or thought of. Obama stated we should stop our childish ways and work together as a united nation. At that sentence I knew he would be a good president. I thought, “He’s right. What are we going to accomplish if we argue instead of work together?” I’m proud to be alive to witness this day. I think America has changed so much in just 100 years but I also think America still has room to change. I think we don’t need to be perfect. Still, I hope in the future the people of America realize we all are equal. We may look different from each other but that’s OK because everybody is different in their own way and that’s good because that makes everyone unique.
Sally Choi, 15, The Linden Center

I got to see Obama’s inauguration at school in my English honors class. It was awesome because my teacher was an Obama supporter, so I KNEW I wouldn’t miss his speech.
    Obama’s speech disappointed me. I was waiting for him to say "YES WE CAN" or "YES WE WILL." The speech was also a lot shorter than I would’ve liked. Other than those two disappointments, his speech was right on. I, as an Obama supporter, looked at Obama’s victory as a savior to all our country’s problems. I think Obama offered the country a wake-up call by saying, "Hey, guess what. This is going to take a little bit more than a day, a week, a month, or even a year."
    It felt awesome watching the speech while wearing my Obama t-shirt at school, so I could only dream of actually being there. I would’ve given ANYTHING to be there, at that moment, watching and listening to President Barack Obama give his inauguration speech.
Kevin Ko, 14, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

I watched part of the inauguration at school (they were playing it on a large screen in our auditorium) and clips on TV later on when I got home. I was a little disappointed by Obama’s speech. His speech was so highly anticipated that there was really no way he could fulfill such high expectations. Compared to great inauguration speeches like John F. Kennedy’s and Bill Clinton’s, I thought that Obama’s didn’t have any memorable phrases or radical ideas. I didn’t think it was as well-written as his acceptance speech but it was an amazing day for America (and the world) and I was, overall, very happy to be part of it. Even if I were there, it would have been really difficult to get up close since there were so many people. I am happy and grateful that I saw everything on TV. Being alive and well to witness this historic event was enough for me!
Cathleen McCaffery, 17, Marlborough School

I was in my school auditorium as I watched Obama’s inauguration speech, and it was by far the best spectacle I’ve witnessed on campus. What touched me most was seeing the overflowing crowd of millions of diverse people passionate about a new America. Witnessing that moment made me feel exhilarated and I nearly shed happy tears! Finally, the world has a positive thing to say about America and our future. I pictured people from all continents tuning in to see the American flags on Capitol Hill gain a brighter meaning. Obama’s speech sounded stern and hopeful, which is exactly the tone a president needs at this gray time in history.
Sylvana Insua-Rieger, 17, Beverly Hills HS

I will never forget Jan. 20, 2009. Headed to my second period Publications class, I stopped as I entered the room. It was quiet, unlike the usual hustle and bustle. Eyes were fixed on the television as Barack Obama took his oath. I was mesmerized watching and listening closely to my president’s words, which deeply moved me. The phrase that particularly inspired me was, "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works—whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end." There is no doubt that we need change, but for a politician to be straightforward and expose the silly arguments between Democrats and Republicans over the role of the government was spectacular. The fact that our commander in chief is not afraid to compromise between party lines to get the job done is comforting but motivational as well. His confidence and poise uplifted the more than a million spectators in Washington, D.C. that morning and countless viewers around the world. The allusions to history and what we need to do in the future sent a feeling of exhilaration down my spine. I had never been more touched by a politician’s words in my life. The passion and dedication this one man had impacted me. I was never a huge Obama supporter but after his inaugural address, I felt not only motivated but unified. As I glanced around the room, I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling the intensity of this historic moment. Surrounding me were the glassy-eyed stares of my classmates who had been captivated not by Obama, but by his message to unite the American people.
Stephany Yong, 14, Walnut HS

I think President Obama’s speech was remarkable. He sounded convincing that he wants to change America and make it into a better home for us. Our economy at this point isn’t very good, but I know that taking one step at a time and with Obama guiding us, we can get there and we can be strong. When he said that we must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves I knew that America would be in the hands of a very powerful, sincere man.
Patricia Chavarria, Cesar Chavez HS (Compton)

Although the pre-inaugural events started earlier in the morning, I was able to watch the speech at 9 o’clock sharp, and thank goodness the program was running late. In my AP European History class we were supposed to discuss a free-response question but our teacher felt as if it might have been more important to see the change America was going to experience. About 10 minutes after 9 a.m., Obama finally took his oath, which was then followed by his speech. I felt very inspired by his speech not only because it was full of powerful messages, but because of the way he presented it. His confidence behind each word proved his promise. His powerful words led to applause throughout my classroom, which I thought was interesting because of the effect a man’s words were able to have on people thousands of miles from him.
    The inauguration helped me realize how important it is to have a powerful and effective leader. With the millions of people watching worldwide, I knew that America would no longer be the same. That moment on the small classroom TV screen would definitely be a sight to be remembered for the rest of my life, when the dreams of thousands of people became a reality.
Crystal Huh, 15, Crescenta Valley HS