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Students and Staff Return from Washington with Lasting Impressions

Tony Zamble and Grace Martinez

Several North Park students and staff attend presidential inauguration

CHICAGO, IL (January 22, 2009) – “Twenty-four hours ago I stood on the Washington Mall wedged between an African American woman in her sixties who wore her finest fur coat and hat and a white man of the same generation wearing a ski jacket and knit cap,” Campus Pastor Judy Peterson wrote on Wednesday, January 21, following one of the most widely watched and heavily attended presidential inaugurations in history. “When everyone began vying for space I watched as the white man gave deference to the black woman, making sure she could see the world about to change.”

Peterson was just one in a group of nearly 50 students and staff with North Park’s University Ministries who returned from Tuesday’s inaugural festivities with more than a few indelible impressions. Two other contingents of about 20 North Parkers—one with the student newspaper, The North Park Press, and the other with Africana Studies—traveled separately to the nation’s capital, the latter for a weeklong stay that included additional cultural activities in D.C.

Editor-in-Chief of The North Park Press Amanda Dayton and photographer Jonathan Nehring watched the inauguration from a nearby rooftop, snapping shots of the motorcade leaving the Capitol building. Other Press students watched the parade from the sidelines, cheering as the presidential limousine passed them carrying the nation’s newest commander-in-chief. Additional images of their visit to Washington can be viewed at The North Park Press blog.

The University-sponsored trip was offered to students on a first-come, first-served basis, and was funded by several campus departments. Donations were also received from The Evangelical Covenant Church’s Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, and the denomination’s African American Ministers Association.

For senior Tanikia Thompson, the opportunity to travel to D.C. was a dream come true. “I was there when Obama won the primary . . . and I was there to see him speak in Grant Park after he won the election,” says Thompson, whose parents came of age during the Civil Rights era, and whose grandmother grew up in Mississippi under Jim Crow legislation. “My family is so excited for me,” adds the Africana Studies minor. “My grandmother told me she never thought she would see this day.”

Peterson notes that the peaceful transfer of power that took place on Tuesday afternoon was not just an example for Americans, but also for the entire world. “There were cameras and crews from California and Russia, Israel and China, Mexico and England, and they were all broadcasting this event back to those who otherwise would have missed the moment,” she observed. “I felt hopeful that because of that kind of connection that maybe the world in its entirety would one day be able to live and love beyond stereotype because of the promise they saw just twenty-four hours ago.”