Local contingent attending inaugural

Emily Harper did not expect to be at a presidential inaugural when she arrived at Ohio University nearly four years ago.

At the time, the 2009 LaBrae High School grad only had a fledgling interest in politics.

Today, Harper, 22, and several Ohio University friends who, as young Democrats, worked hard on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign are experiencing their first inaugural.

“It (the campaign) was a lot of hard work,” she said. “But it was totally worth it. It was rewarding to see people get so excited and wanting to volunteer.”

Harper said she worked so hard on the campaign because she believes in the president’s policies.

“He has done so much for students, like the doubling of Pell Grants and extending women’s rights,” she said. “He also is for marriage equality. While that is not something that will affect me personally, it will help people I know and love.”

Although Harper majored in international business and marketing, she is hoping to use her experience as a young Democrat and become involved in public works.

“I fully expect to cry during the ceremony,” she said. “I am so honored and privileged to be able to see this in person.”

Harper is one of many Mahoning Valley natives making the trip to the nation’s capital to see Obama take the oath of office. Though largely ceremonial – he and Vice President Joe Biden were officially sworn in on Sunday – attendance is expected at about 800,000.

Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 in Lordstown, says the ceremony will be a culmination of the work that was done to get Obama re-elected.

“We really worked hard over the last election cycle because he supported General Motors,” Green said from Washington on Sunday. “He was there for us during our darkest days.”

Green has taken his daughter with him to Washington.

“I’m here because I want to be part of history,” he said. “Going forward, I want the president to continue supporting working people and give all of those wanting to work a chance to get good paying jobs.”

Warren Councilwoman Helen Rucker has been to every inaugural since President Bill Clinton’s first in 1993.

“I even went when the person I didn’t support won as a form of protest,” Rucker said on Sunday night.

The first Obama inaugural was different from others she attended because there was a sense of new hope and historical change that she did not experience in earlier ones.

“There definitely were more people,” she said. “It was the first time that I saw so many poor people make it.”

She believes that there only will only be half as many people attending this inaugural.

“People who come this time will be looking for the president to reaffirm what he promised to do in the first term,” she said. “There is still a lot of work to do. Only this time, people know he can’t do it alone, even with the power of the presidency. They know he has to find ways to work with Congress to get work done.”

Gina Bianco of Girard is attending her first inaugural and also is visiting Washington, D.C., for the first time.

“I’m so blessed to have this opportunity,” Bianco said. “I just hope the president in the second term keeps moving in the direction he has in the first four years.”

Bianco attended the Ohio Ball on Saturday night.

“It was amazing,” she said.

She toured the monuments on Sunday.

“They took my breath away,” she said. “I had tears in my eyes. We missed seeing the president at the Martin Luther King Memorial by a half-hour.”