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Chicago High School Students Cheer Obama's Speech


During every inauguration, there's some degree of hometown pride on display, and President Obama's swearing-in yesterday was no different. Thousands of inauguration-goers made their way from the president's adopted hometown of Chicago. And it wasn't just seasoned politicians. Many were young people.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Among the many who made they're way from Chicago were about a dozen high school students. It was there first inauguration. For many, it was there first time to the nation's capital. But they're not necessarily political novices.

JANAKI THAKKER: Now that he was re-inaugurated, he doesn't have to be shy or scared about other people or what they think about him anymore.

GLINTON: Janaki Thakker is 16-year-old junior and she goes to West Chicago High School.

THAKKER: So he can literally say whatever he wants and how he feels about everything. And I think, like, this is the first time he bluntly said every single thing he believed in outright to the public. And I thought that was phenomenal.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I agree with everything she said.


GLINTON: Now, these weren't necessarily your normal, everyday teens. I mean they were but they're also a part of a program called Mikva Challenge, started by former congressman, judge, and Obama mentor Abner Mikva, to encourage young people to get involved in politics. They'd all volunteered for the campaign. They were all excited to be at inauguration. And almost all said they have more than hope. They have expectations.

Here's Elizeth Arguelles.

ELIZETH ARGUELLES, STUDENT, WEST CHICAGO HIGH SCHOOL: I really when Obama mentioned about the immigrants. But I want to believe him but I want to see, like, actions. I want to see him doing. I'm not, like, oh, he's going to do it. I really want him to make, like, his words into actions.

GLINTON: Finis Barrow is a 17-year-old senior at Gage Park High on Chicago's Southwest Side. He said the president's speech was personal.

FINIS BARROW: When Barack Obama talked about what he would want to do for gay rights and how he wanted them to be all equal, it touched me a little bit. You know, I screamed the loudest when he said gay rights. You know, I support them. Even though I'm not gay myself, I still support them. And I believe, like, they should be treated equally, just as I should.

GLINTON: All the kids said they were moved and the moment was historic. I asked Hannah Schlacter what that meant.

HANNAH SCHLACTER: It means that history was made. And I saw the movie "Lincoln" last night, and from there - 200 years ago - to now, my mind is blown. So I'm so proud to live in this country and that we have this equality and we have freedom. Seeing Barack Obama up there, I saw that he's an example of that. So does that answer your question?

GLINTON: Meanwhile, on the other side of the Mall and the age spectrum, was Minnie Rose. She politely refused to give her age. Rose says, like the young Hannah Schlacter, she came to bear witness.

MINNIE ROSE: To see history made. We won't see it no more. We're a little too old to see the next black president. Be gone with the Lord.

GLINTON: Sonari Glinton, NPR News.


GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.