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Swearing in, MLK Day Hold Special Meaning for Older Visitors By Taryn Finley
January 21, 2013

Older people at the west front of the Capitol for Obama’s second Inauguration. Mother-daughter duo Christine Kennard, 79, on left and Karren (cq) Pope-Onukwe, 60; both of Suburban Maryland. PHOTO: Taryn Finley

By Taryn Finley
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Howard University News Service

( - Tears fell from a 60-year-old woman’s eyes shortly after President Barack Obama took the public oath of office for his second term. She calmly let them fall without wiping the drops from her cheeks

The woman, Karren Pope-Onwukwe of Hyattsville, Md., was accompanied by Christine Kennard, her 79-year-old mother who resides in Columbia, Md. These two women along with hundreds of thousands of others showed up early up to the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

The day not only marked the commencement of Obama’s second term, but also the second time that the inauguration has fallen on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Moments like these are meaningful and historic to many Americans, but they hold a special place in the hearts of older African Americans who lived through the turbulent struggles for racial equality in the United States.

Pope-Onwukwe described her time at Obama’s first inauguration as a “Harriet Tubman experience” although the biting, damp cold still holds a prominent place in her memories.

“[Martin Luther King] had a vision and his vision came from God that this could happen,” Pope-Onwukwe said. “I believe President Obama is a visionary leader and he has a vision for where this country can go within the African American community and even with same sex-marriage. What he’s saying is we had to love one another despite our differences.”

After comparing these two historical figures, Pope-Onwukwe said, “He set me free.”

The mother and daughter from Maryland weren’t alone in their early-morning pilgrimage to the National Mall. And many traveled long distances to participate in the historic celebrations.

Thomas Patterson, 75, whose grandfather is former slave, came to D.C. from Lubbock, Tex., where he is the longest-serving African American council member. For him, attending President Obama’s second inauguration was mandatory.

“I’d be remiss not to come see this,” Patterson said.

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