Scott County Central teen reflects on Obama's historic inauguration

Friday, January 16, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Scott County Central High junior MonŠe Johnson.

Barack Obama stands ready to become the nation's next president and its first black president Tuesday. He'll be leading the country through an economic crisis and an ongoing war and signing legislation that will affect generations to come. During the campaign, Obama energized young people, getting them more involved. We talked to one of those young people about what it means to her to witness Obama's historic swearing-in.

Chris Harris: Where were you when you found out Barack Obama had been elected the country's first black president?

Monae Johnson: I was actually at school. Our government class gets really involved in it. We got to vote for who we thought should win and then count those votes, but by then I already knew.

CH: How did you feel?

MJ: Oh great. I felt really, really great because it's a change. It's something new.

CH: Do you have plans for Tuesday's inauguration?

MJ: Actually at school we really don't, so if anything, I guess — I mean can't go to D.C. — so I'll probably be watching the news.

CH: What do you feel like this means for your generation for a black man to become president of the United States?

MJ: To me, it shows that it really doesn't matter what your race is, you still can become anything that you want to be. But I think it's great that he got elected for president because that showed a lot of African-Americans that we could really be in the same position. You have a lot of those kids that when they grow up, they want to be president and a lot of people don't think they can do that. But for an African-American to do it, and then you have these other African-American people wanting to have dreams like this and for them to see it come true, it just, like, opens our eyes and throws us out there to say, "Yeah, we can do this."

CH: So what do you want to do when you graduate?

MJ: When I graduate I'm depending on going to SEMO, and I want to be a speech pathologist.

CH: Do you think Obama being inaugurated the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day adds anything special to it?

MJ: It just shows a lot that it was just time for a change and Martin Luther King was trying to make a change. It's like his dream really lives in Barack Obama. It came true.

CH: Do you look up to Martin Luther King?

MJ: I look up to him in many ways. Not just because he was an African American, because I also look up to Kennedy. But just for the simple fact that he believed that blacks and whites could unite and come together and that his meaning of things is really what's going on in the world today, he had a lot of meaning in what's going on today and so I look up to him a lot.

CH: Who else do you look up to?

MJ: I look up to Dr. Martin Luther King. I look up to Harriet Tubman. Who else do I look up to? Oprah Winfrey and John F. Kennedy. These are like, oh I know they're old. Do I have to have any young people?

CH: No, not if you don't want any.

MJ: OK. Good.

CH: Do you think you'll look up to Barack Obama?

MJ: Yes. Yes, I look up to him. And his wife, also, because she stands by him. I think she is a real strong black woman, and she's there for him. And she's a good speaker herself, so I look up to her, too.

CH: What's one or two things you really hope come out of his presidency?

MJ: The economy is my biggest issue. With me being a middle class or lower middle class person and all these jobs lost, I just hope that the economy really — I hope he can fix that. I just really, that's like my biggest concern right now.

A lot of people are basing it on religion and things, but that's just your choice. The economy is my main focus for right now. And war also. I know war probably won't come to a cease. I'm still thinking he can at least work things out.

CH: Is there anything else you want to add?

MJ: I am very upset that I turned 17 last year instead of 18, so I didn't get to vote. But I am still very proud that he is our president and that he's trying to make a change.

Monae Johnson

Age: 17

Grade: 11

School: Scott County Central High School

Clubs and activities: Beta Club, cheerleader, history club, FCCLA

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