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Tri-State residents going to inauguration

January 17, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

TRI-STATE -- Passionate supporters of President-elect Barack Obama and die-hard political activists from the Tri-State area will be among the crowd of millions gathered in Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's presidential inauguration ceremony.

All of those interviewed have different personal reasons for braving the crowds and the commute, but all say it will be a day to remember: The day they were part of history.

Alesia Parson-McBean

Hagerstown city councilwoman

It was about three years ago when Hagerstown City Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean first met President-elect Barack Obama. An instant fan of his words and his message, she said Obama is a man who "talks the talk and walks the walk."

On Tuesday, Parson-McBean will watch Obama be sworn into office.

The first time Parson-McBean saw Obama speak was in 2006, and she said he told the crowd not to be distracted from what they were setting out to do. That message was particularly moving for Parson-McBean, who was distracted by a number of things that year, including her father's illness, an incident involving threatening letters and public fallout from an encounter with the local police.

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She felt those things pulling her away from what she set out to do, which was represent the citizens of Hagerstown.

"I was drawn in by his speech," Parson-McBean said. "I was engrossed by his words."

Following his speech, she said she shook Obama's hand, and he told her not to be distracted.

When U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., was running for election in 2006, Parson-McBean said Cardin asked her what it would take to earn her support.

Her response: "Fifteen minutes with Barack Obama."

Several weeks later, Parson-McBean attended a rally for Cardin attended by Obama. The two spoke, and McBean said Obama said it was clear she had not been distracted from what she was doing -- referencing his speech earlier that year.

Parson-McBean said Obama also told her, "With a smile like that, you will go far."

The two spoke for between 15 and 20 minutes, she said.

It was Obama's 2008 speech on race relations in Philadelphia that proved to Parson-McBean that Obama "walked the walk."

She said she was moved by that speech.

Parson-McBean has known since Election Day that she would be attending Tuesday's inauguration, and while she knows she will be overwhelmed with pride and emotion, she also is embracing the unknown.

"I just want to lend my support and show my support for what this great nation has accomplished," she said.

After years of what she called "hurting and pain" associated with racism in America, the nation has elected its first black president, and Parson-McBean said she will be happy to be just one person in the crowd of many supporting him Tuesday.

"It's an amazing time," she said.

Anne Seibert, 64

Clear Spring

Twenty years ago, Anne Seibert participated in a march in Washington in support of abortion rights that drew about a half-million people.

That will be nothing compared to Tuesday's crowd, she said.

But for Seibert, it will all be worth it.

"I think to actually physically be a part of the history of it, rather than an observer," she said. "To actually be in the city itself is to be part of it, and that's a lot different than just watching it on television."

Growing up, Seibert's school was integrated when she was in the sixth grade. She late watched the news as blacks living in the South were abused and killed.

On Tuesday, she'll watch as America welcomes its first black president.

"But it's more than that," Seibert said. "It transcends race and ethnicity. It's more of a hope for America."

As a retired social worker, Seibert said she typically has aligned herself with the Democratic philosophy. However, she said while watching Obama campaign, she didn't feel she was hearing the empty promises so many politicians have delivered in the past.

Her same enthusiasm for Obama has carried over to today, and Seibert said she expects to be overwhelmed by what she sees Tuesday.

In the past 10 years, Seibert and her husband have traveled the world, seeing historic sights and world icons. At each place, she feels awe, Seibert said.

"I never thought ... never thought I would be in this kind of experience," she said. "Just ... oh my God, I never thought I would be here. That's the same sort of feeling I expect."

Loretta Williams, 29

Hagerstown

Loretta Williams' great-grandfather attended the Democratic National Convention in 1912.

Her grandfather went to Woodrow Wilson's funeral.

Loretta's father, Russell F. Williams II, participated in the March on Washington in 1963 and saw Martin Luther King Jr. speak.

And now, Loretta will attend President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

"My family has a history of witnessing history," she said.

Loretta has autism and lives in an assisted-living facility at United Cerebral Palsy in Hagerstown.

Loretta first took an interest in politics at 13, and expressed such a desire to attend Tuesday's inauguration that Loretta's house manager, Lavonda Dunn, volunteered to take her.

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