January 16, 2009 | Myrna Anderson

A Calvin staff member is taking a long weekend to visit her brother and niece in Washington D.C. and to attend a historical event: the January 20 Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama.

"Just being in D.C. is cool in itself,” said Ebonie Atkins, an administrative assistant in the office of multicultural affairs, “but the (inauguration of the) first African-American president is definitely a historical moment. I’m kind of pretty open that I voted for him,” she said, “but even if you didn’t vote for him, you can’t deny the significance of the moment.”

Atkins, assistant to the dean for multicultural affairs, will be making the 10-hour drive to Washington with a friend who procured tickets to the event through the office of U.S. Congressman Vern Ehlers, who represents Michigan's 3rd District. She admitted that she hasn’t completely processed the magnitude of the occasion: “I don’t think it’s really going to hit me until I hit the road. I’ve been partially excited this week, but I’ve been going kind of day to day.”

A new day

While the inauguration is an important event for all Americans, it is a signal event for African Americans, said Atkins: “I think it’s very significant … because there’s no more barriers now as far as what you think you can accomplish … If we can have an African American president, I hope that I can go on and be great too. Although there are still difficulties in our society—now it’s harder for those things to seep in, the way people may label you and the way society may look at you, because you have a model to look at.”

Obama will face more than racial barriers Atkins said: “I kind of have mixed feelings because I know that he’s taken on a difficult job right now with wars and the economy. I just hope he makes wise decisions in the next few years.”

For now, Atkins just wants to enjoy the inaugural moment: “Just the thrill of it— the thrill of standing in the cold … Hope I get a picture—no matter how far away I am.”

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