Barack Obama is scheduled to take the oath of office at about 11 o’clock, Iowa time today and then deliver his inaugural address.
Sixty-year-old Kittie Weston-Knauer of Des Moines cleared her schedule so she can watch today’s festivities on television. "All I can say is that I am so excited that I’m actually being a part of this, that this is happening in my lifetime because growing up as an African American in the south, we talk about the struggles and we talked about the what ifs and we talked about that day coming," she says.
Vickie Brown of Des Moines will be at work when Obama takes the oath of office. "Just to live to see this day is going to mean a lot to me," Brown says.
Brown is 54 years old. "I have three sisters and a mom who didn’t live to see this day," she says. "I remember when Martin Luther King was shot and then a month later I lost my mom and then a month later we lost Bobby Kennedy, so I’m just overwhelmed. I worked on the (Obama) campaign and it was just amazing to have someone that you could actually believe in."
Mary Clark-Calhoun of Des Moines is at Union Park Baptist Church in Des Moines this morning, watching the events on a 60-inch screen that’s been brought in just for the occasion. "All being together, sharing and rejoicing," she says.
Reverend Keith Ratliff of Des Moines is president of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. "This is just so historic, as everyone has said," Ratliff says. "It’s such a cliché word, but it’s so true."
Ratliff calls today a dream come true. "I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s with the civil rights movement…and to see how America has made a number of changes. Yes, we know there’s a lot of other things that still have been to addressed, but so many changes have been made," Ratliff says. "…And to see young kids — regardless of their race — to see an African American hold the highest office not only in the United States but really in the free world I think is a tremendous statement and it couldn’t have been done unless Americans of all backgrounds got together, as one, to put the best person in office who just happened to be African American, so I’m excited."
For over a year, Judy Reha — a white woman from Des Moines — has been wearing a necklace with four sparking letters that spell the word "HOPE."
"It symbolizes what we have put into this campaign and I think it’s the hope of the nation and I think everybody’s feeling it," she says. "Since I’m laid up with this broken leg I’ve been watching a lot of that on television and it’s amazing. The whole nation is just alive with this. It’s just going to be a good, good day."
Michael Jeter of Des Moines says he’ll be thinking about the promise of America when Obama takes the oath. "You can achieve anything in this country, you know, it doesn’t matter now your race, color, gender," he says. "You may experience some set backs. Nothing’s ever easy, but you can achieve your dreams in this country if you really want to."
Mary Campos of Des Moines is one of the organizers of a party tonight in Des Moines called "Brown, Black and the Blues."
"People can come and enjoy themselves and, you know, pat each other on the back," Campos says, "And hug a few people and say, ‘This is what it’s all about.’"
Campos, who is 80 years old, says she’s committed to doing her part to help Obama move the country in a different direction. "I can do this and this is what we need to do. We need to come out, join hands and work our little bottoms off," Campos says. "We need to do this."
Many Iowans made the trip to D.C. to be there for today’s inauguration ceremony and the inaugural parade. Mary Braun of the Des Moines suburb of Clive stood in a very long line to pick up her tickets for the inaugural. "Everyone is just so darn friendly and people have been very patient," Braun says.
Braun is maneuvering through D.C. with her sister, who lives in Phoenix. Since they have tickets for the inaugural ceremony, they’ll be unable to get a spot along the parade route. Braun and her sister plan to stop by the reception Iowa’s congressional delegation is hosting right after the ceremony, then they’re dressing up this evening as they have tickets to the Midwestern Inaugural Ball. "Senator Obama, now President Obama has been in the state of Iowa two years now. It’s just the end. He’s come full circle, to get sworn in — the whole historic nature (of the day)," Braun says. "I just can’t believe I’m here."
Braun, the deputy director of the Iowa House Democratic Caucus Staff, attended the Bill Clinton’s second inaugural in 1997, but she says there are a lot more people in D.C. today and a lot more security.