Gala held in Cape Girardeau to celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When Elma Staten of Jackson and other area women supporting Barack Obama couldn't find a local event to celebrate his inauguration as president, they decided to hold their own.

On Tuesday night, Staten's creation -- a black-tie dinner and formal ball held at Drury Lodge -- drew nearly 100 attendees, some from out of state.

"This was her brainchild -- she had a vision," Beverly Delph said.

Staten was unwilling to travel to St. Louis to attend a black-tie inaugural gala, so she assembled a planning committee to create on in Cape Girardeau, Delph said.

The committee, made up of 10 professionals, the majority women from Cape Girardeau, Sikeston and Jackson, met weekly since mid-November to bring the gala to life, Delph said.

Staten had wanted a full-blown gala -- prime rib, ball gowns and an inspirational speaker -- and decided the money raised would go toward a scholarship for a deserving student, said Carolyn Kluttz, one of the organizers.

"We just planned it piece by piece," she said.

The committee selected Cairo, Ill., native Lt. Col. James E. Ramsey, now of Grand Blanc, Mich., as the guest speaker because they thought he "fit the occasion," Kluttz said.

When the organizers learned Ramsey would not be in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration and would be able to attend, they knew it would work out, Kluttz said.

Ramsey is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve officer and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He serves as a staff officer for the Army Reserve Forces Policy Committee and General Officer Steering Committee at the Pentagon and has received numerous decorations.

Seven members of Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team volunteered their time at the gala to escort guests to their seats in the ballroom, an idea from assistant coach Rodney Hamilton.

"I felt it was my responsibility since I couldn't go all the way to D.C., to do my part here in Cape Girardeau," Hamilton said.

Junior Bijon Jones said the team was interested in finding a way to give back to the community that supports them at games.

Jones, who has family members in the capital who were able to attend Tuesday's inaugural events, said he believes the inauguration represents a "great day for the nation," he said.

"I'm looking forward to what the future will bring," he said.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

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