A smiling President Barack Obama - well, sort of - greeted Kathy Hegstrom's 10th-grade American History students at Brainerd High School on Tuesday, his Inauguration Day.
The life-size cardboard cutout of Obama had made an earlier appearance at a Harrison Elementary School inaugural program and had been returned to Hegstrom, who owns the cutout, an hour before she and her third-hour students watched on television as Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
It was history in the making, Hegstrom reminded her students as they watched the presidential inauguration. "Save today's paper," she had written on her chalkboard. She hoped that one day her students' children would bring those newspapers to their own American history classes, proving their parents had witnessed the inauguration of the nation's first black president.
Many students agreed it was a historic event.
Kevin Koopman (left), Kalli Crawford, Jeremy Young and Tyler Lenz of Kathy Hegstrom's 10th-grade American history class watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama Tuesday at Brainerd High School. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life," said 10th-grader Tony Roehl, who, though he was too young to vote, participated in the electoral process last November by being a volunteer election judge for the Kids Voting program.
"The change in the last century has been incredible and I look forward to change in the future," added Olivia Elsenpeter.
Tara Saley said her entire family had been looking forward to the inauguration.
"We woke up in the morning pretty excited," said Saley. "It's going to be a good day."
It's pretty cool because 200 years ago African-Americans were slaves, said Joshua Koering. "And now we've got an African-American as our leader."
As they watched the ceremony together, Hegstrom explained to her students who many of the dignitaries were on television, including California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and singer Aretha Franklin. The students had studied the U.S. presidents and named all five living presidents at the event.
After Obama's inaugural address, Lizzie Derosier said she was glad that Obama mentioned helping people beyond the U.S. borders, by helping build schools and provide clean water.
"With the economy and global warming, we haven't been talking about those problems and I think it's nice he addressed that," said Derosier.
Kathy Hegstrom's 10th-grade American history class watched President Barack Obama's inauguration speech Tuesday from a television in the front of the classroom next to a cardboard cutout of the new president. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
By a show of hands, more than half of the students said their families have been directly affected by the economic downturn. As a result, many felt one of Obama's biggest priorities was to fix the economy.
"The economy, because we're in such a decline," Saley said of Obama's priorities now that he is president. "And the environment. And he'll end the war, hopefully."
"I'd like to see our economy get better," added Koering. "And to get away from the war."
Hegstrom said her history students have studied the Civil War and Reconstruction and soon will learn about the 1960s civil rights movement, which will help provide greater context for them as they experience new leadership under the nation's first black president.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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