By SAM HATCHER and JOHN B. BRYANThe Wilson Post
“I’m elated and excited,” were the first words from a 70-year-old African American yesterday when she was contacted by telephone by The Wilson Post.
Her emotional words burst through the telephone receiver immediately after “Good morning Mary. How are you?”
Mary Harris, a longtime leader in Lebanon’s African American community, made it clear that the inauguration of President Barack Obama was a very important event in her life.
Without expressly detailing her thoughts, her thoughts were made clear when she said only a few words, “I’m 70-years-old and when you’ve experienced some of the things I and others my age have . . . well, you know it’s a very important day.”
Although she didn’t say it, the reference was clearly about the movement to abolish segregation in the late 1950s and 1960s and the years before that dating back to slavery.
She said she believed and was hopeful that “we collectively” can work for “the betterment” of our country and community.
This community leader, who has volunteered her services to help organize an African American History Museum, publish a history about the local African American Community and is now engaged in trying to restore the old historically prominent Pickett Chapel, says she thinks the message transmitted by the new president about “serving” is “so important” to our country’s future.
“I think leadership sets the tone and I think we all have something to offer. I think, if our community and our country can work together, there will be much accomplished and we will all be better,” Harris said.
She urged that Obama’s presidency should not be viewed as a black or white issue but rather as an “opportunity for our country to come together, work together and be together.”
Hattie Bryant, a retired educator and Obama campaign supporter, reflected after viewing the inauguration of the 44th President, “It’s really hard for me to put into words what I am feeling. After living my entire life on Forrest Avenue and experiencing a taste of the separation of races, teaching 20 years in segregation and the last 13 in an integrated classroom…my hope is that our President will make our country a better place for all people. I am so thankful at age 85 to see this come to be.”
Lebanon resident Todd Jones said although he didn’t vote for the President he is all for him now. “I think we need to come together as a country and support him. We are facing a tough economy now and President Obama needs our support to see us through this,” he said.U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, today made the following statement on the inauguration of President Obama to serve as the 44th President of the United States:
“In August 1963, I was a law student and a summer intern in the Department of Justice, standing at the back of a huge crowd on a hot day when Dr. King spoke of his dream that one day his children would not be judged ‘by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ The inauguration of Barack Obama the day after Dr. King’s birthday symbolizes both remarkable progress on America’s most intractable problem – race – and a reaffirmation of America’s most unique characteristic – a fervent belief that anything is possible.” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said he thought the crowds would be overwhelming“All the hundreds of thousands of people there and all that security, I hate to try to get around in that,” Craighead said. “I’m excited for him and I wish him well. I hope everybody will get behind him and help him get this country where we belong.”
Regarding Obama’s sudden rise to the presidency, Craighead said, “Things all of a sudden lead you in life. Different opportunities come before you and you follow the hints, then all of a sudden like him you’re President.”Fifth District U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper issued the following statement after attending the inauguration:
“Today marks a new beginning for America. We have rededicated ourselves to the task of making this country as great as it can be. I congratulate President Obama and Vice President Biden on this historic occasion. It’s a moment of great possibility. We celebrate together as one nation, and now we must work together as one nation.”