University community celebrates historic inauguration

Students seated in Frist

Freshman Esther Clovis (seated front) celebrated Tuesday with the crowd in the TV lounge of the Frist Campus Center after President Barack Obama took the oath of office. A first-generation American, Clovis said Obama's election reflects that America is a land of opportunity. More than 300 students gathered in the lounge to watch the ceremony. (Photo: Denise Applewhite)

Princetonians have roles in transition, administration

View a video of the inauguration panel discussion at Robertson Hall.

Slaughter at the podium

Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, introduced the panel discussion in Dodds Auditorium of Robertson Hall and added a few of her own observations. (Photo: Brian Wilson)

Freshman Esther Clovis said she has two male role models in her life: her father and Barack Obama. Both men have endured hardships and possess great work ethics.

On Tuesday, the inauguration of Obama as president showed her that persistence and hard work can pay off, and that the American dream can belong to her family too.

"It makes me realize once again how blessed I am to have the opportunities I have," said Clovis, whose parents came to the United States from Haiti 30 years ago. "My father drives a taxi, I am a first-generation American and first-generation going to college, and when President Obama talked about the economic struggles we're all going through, it just put everything into perspective. When I look at the opportunities that Barack Obama has had, he is definitely the American dream."

Chow and May-Gamboa

Seniors Candice Chow and Julio May-Gamboa, eager to witness the first African American becoming the U.S. president, watched the inauguration from a simulcast room in Robertson Hall. (Photo: Brian Wilson)

Clovis was among hundreds of students, staff, faculty and local residents who flocked to viewing parties across the University to watch the inauguration of the 44th U.S. president and the first African American chief executive.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 students packed the TV lounge at the Frist Campus Center with other groups scattered throughout the building, while Dodds Auditorium in Robertson Hall hosted a panel discussion, viewing and reception for a capacity audience that spilled into several overflow rooms.

The viewings were punctuated by rounds of applause, laughter and cheers from the energetic crowds celebrating the historic moment.

Derrick Glover took time out of his work for University Services at Frist to watch the inauguration at a viewing organized by the Princetonians of Color Network in Frist Multipurpose Room A, even though Glover said he was recording the event at home for his 7-year-old son.

"I sent my son to school, but I taped it so when he gets home, we can watch it together," Glover said. "(Obama) gives a sense of hope that kids of the future can do anything, especially things (people) told me as a kid would never happen."

In the Frist TV lounge, freshman Maraiya Hakeem said she couldn't help but think of the generations of African Americans who came before her while watching Obama take the oath of office.

"When he said we have overcome racial lines and we need to keep moving forward, I was thinking of my great-grandmother who is 95 and watching today in Youngtown, Ohio. I know she didn't think she would live to see it."

John Kolligian, director of Counseling and Psychological Services in University Health Services, also watching at Frist, said he felt drawn to be with others during the inauguration because Obama's election has been "an incredibly bonding experience for our country and anyone who cares about the state of our world."

Students watching outside Café Vivian

A crowd of students, faculty and staff in the Frist Campus Center applauded with approval as Obama outlined a message of change in his inauguration speech. (Photo: Denise Applewhite)

At Robertson Hall, the events featured remarks by Brandice Canes-Wrone, professor of politics and public affairs; former U.S. Rep. James Leach, the John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs and Co. Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs; moderator Nolan McCarty, associate dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Politics and Public Affairs; and Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter.

The event, sponsored by the Wilson School, Center for the Study of Democratic Politics and Office of Community and Regional Affairs, focused on Obama's place in history, as well as the good will he engenders and hope that he projects in the United States and throughout the world.

"Barack Obama's inauguration helps remind us of the world of opportunity in America," Canes-Wrone said. "We begin Obama's presidency with a sense of change and, perhaps more importantly, with a sense that our nation continues to make real progress in terms of offering equal opportunity for all of our citizens. "

Robertson Hall panelists

From left, faculty members Brandice Canes-Wrone, Nolan McCarty and James Leach participated in the panel discussion in Dodds Auditorium, commenting on the historic nature of Obama’s presidency and the widespread support he is attracting in the United States and abroad. They then joined the crowd in watching the festivities. (Photo: Brian Wilson)

The audience, a mix of members of the community and University students, faculty and staff, participated fully in the inauguration as if they were in the crowd on the National Mall, standing when Obama first arrived on the Capitol steps and cheering after certain lines of his speech.

Brenda Cohen, a Princeton borough resident, said she was surprised by the sense of community she felt with the strangers she joined in watching the proceedings. Though Cohen did not support Obama until late in the election season, she was hopeful about his presidency.

"The speech was excellent and nothing less than I expected, because he's very erudite, " she said. "He's open and not threatened by intelligence and knowledge."

At the other end of the spectrum, Louise Ragin was an ardent Obama supporter who had planned to go to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration but changed her mind at the last minute because of the weather and logistics. Ragin, a retired nurse from Lawrenceville, proudly wore a T-shirt with a likeness of Obama and the phrase "44th president."

Crowd in Robertson hall

The capacity audience in Dodds Auditorium cheered at the first sight of Obama and at many stirring moments. (Photo: Brian Wilson)

"Everyone is unified, celebrating the new," Ragin said. "Everyone is anticipating this changing of the guard and a new direction for America."

Even after the ceremony was over, seniors Candice Chow and Julio May-Gamboa continued to watch the C-SPAN coverage in a Robertson Hall simulcast room as Obama signed his first proclamation. May-Gamboa was impressed by the grandeur and history of the moment, and also was anxious to see how Obama would follow through on the rhetoric in his speech.

"The part I liked most was about America having a set of values that needs to carry us through, and that the solutions are based on these principles," May-Gamboa said. "I hope that we can work on issues without being caught up in party politics and compromising to get things done."

Already, Obama is making an impact around the world, said Tanushree Isaacman. Isaacman, watching the festivities with her husband, engineering doctoral candidate Sibren Isaacman, spent two years in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps and is now pursuing a master's in international affairs at The New School in New York City.

"Obama is adopting the presidency at such a crucial time," she said. "With the way the U.S. is looked upon around the world and the economy, it can only get better."

Students, faculty and stff in Dodds Auditorium

University students, faculty and staff joined members of the community in Dodds Auditorium to watch a broadcast of Obama’s inauguration ceremony. (Photo: Brian Wilson)


Princetonians have roles in transition, administration

First Lady Michelle Obama, a member of Princeton's class of 1985, is perhaps the most recognizable alumna in the new administration.

At Tuesday's inauguration, many Tigers were excited when they noticed that her brother Craig Robinson, a member of the class of 1983, was wearing a black and orange scarf -- although it was noted that Oregon State, where he coaches basketball, claims the same colors.

Many other University alumni as well as several faculty members have had roles within the Obama-Biden Transition Project and are taking on responsibilities within the Obama administration. It is expected that several others will be announced in the coming weeks.

Those known now include:

  • Lisa Brown '82 has been named White House staff secretary, responsible for reviewing official documents before the president signs them. Brown, a politics major, previously served as the executive director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. She was the co-director of the Agency Review Working Group in the transition.
  • Jennifer Cannistra '01 served on the Health Care Policy Working Group during the transition period. Cannistra, a Wilson School major, previously worked as a field organizer for the Obama campaign and also was the Pennsylvania state policy director for the campaign.
  • Joshua DuBois GS'05 served on the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Policy Working Group during the transition. DuBois, who earned a master's in public affairs from the Wilson School, served as director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign.
  • Michael Froman '85 was a member of the transition project's advisory board. Froman, a Wilson School major, is a managing director at Citigroup and from 2004 to 2007, participated in the Princeton Project on National Security in the Wilson School, an initiative to develop a sustainable and effective national security strategy for the United States.
  • Lisa Jackson GS'86 has been nominated as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Jackson, who received a master's in chemical engineering at Princeton, formerly served as New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's chief of staff and as head of the state environmental protection agency.
  • Elena Kagan '81 has been selected to serve as solicitor general. Kagan, previously the dean of the Harvard Law School, was a history major at Princeton.
  • Steve Kosiak GS'86 has been named associate director for defense and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. Kosiak, who received his master's in public affairs from the Wilson School, has been vice president for budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a professor at Georgetown University.
  • Daniel Kurtzer served as a member of the National Security Policy Working Group during the transition. Kurtzer, the S. Daniel Abraham Visiting Professor in Middle East Policy Studies, is a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel.
  • Eric Lander '78 has been named the co-chair of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Lander, a key leader of the Human Genome Project, is the founder and director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. At Princeton, Lander was a mathematics major, Pyne Prize winner, Rhodes Scholar and valedictorian, as well as the winner of the Woodrow Wilson Award as an alumnus.
  • Christopher Lu '88 has been named the Cabinet secretary. Lu, a Wilson School major, was previously the legislative director and acting chief of staff in Obama's Senate office, as well as a policy adviser during the presidential campaign. He also served as the executive director of the transition.
  • William Lynn III GS'82 has been nominated as deputy secretary of defense. Lynn, who received a master's in public affairs at the Wilson School, was previous a senior vice president of government operations and strategy at the Raytheon Corp.
  • Parry Norling GS'65 was a member of the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Policy Working Group during the transition. Norling, who earned a doctorate in chemistry at Princeton, is a visiting fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia and an instructor at the Academy of Lifelong Learning at the University of Delaware, following a long career at the DuPont Co.
  • Peter Orszag '91 is the new director of the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag, an economics major and a Marshall Scholar at the London School of Economics, was previously the director of the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Cecilia Rouse has been nominated as one of the three members of the Council of Economic Advisers. Rouse, the Theodore A. Wells '29 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, would take a two-year public service leave to join the council, which provides the president with analysis and advice on a wide range of domestic and international economic policy issues.
  • Eric Schwartz GS'85 served two roles in the transition: leader of the USUN Agency Review Team and member of the National Security Policy Working Group. Schwartz is the executive director of the Connect U.S. Fund, a foundation promoting responsible U.S. global engagement. Schwartz received a master's in public affairs and is a visiting lecturer in public and international affairs in the Wilson School.
  • Steven Simon GS'83 was a member of the National Security Policy Working Group during the transition. Simon, who received a master's in public affairs from the Wilson School, is also the John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor there. Simon is also the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • Paul Volcker '49 has been named the chair of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, a new group established to give nonpartisan analysis and advice to the president. Volcker majored in the School of Public and International Affairs (now the Wilson School), is M.A. Frederick H. Schultz Class of 1951 Professor of International Economic Policy Emeritus at Princeton and has served under five presidents, including eight years as the Federal Reserve chairman.

GS=Graduate School