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Simpsonville Elementary students and many of their parents packed into the school’s dimly lit gym Tuesday to watch history unfold.
There were spatters of applause throughout the inauguration ceremony, but none greater than when Barack Obama was pronounced the 44th President of the United States.
Whether seated at tables or in the bleachers, most of the adults stayed glued to the footage being projected. Many of the children were more focused on their sack lunches than the speakers on the big screen, but that’s not to say they didn’t know what was going on.
“We’re watching Barack Obama getting elected for President,” said 8-year-old McKenzie Reed.
McKenzie sat high in the bleachers with her sister Jenna, 2, and her parents Corey Reed and Christy Taylor.
“This is actually the first election that she kind of took an interest in,” Christy said of her daughter. “She’d come home and ask me who I’d vote for, because they had the election here at school. I told her that nobody could decide for her who to vote for -- she had to pick a party. Then she didn’t know what a party was, so I had to explain the difference between the democratic and republican party.”
And to Christy and Corey, this election has had a deeper meaning than just political parties dueling.
“From my personal standpoint, my children are biracial. So, it’s important to show that we’re (the country) OK with having an African American as President,” Christy said. “It’s important for us to be here, and for her to know what’s happening.”
“This is history,” Corey added. “It’s a great piece of history. This is something that 40 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King wanted, and 40 years after his death it’s happening. And I’m glad to share it with my daughter.”
Around the room there were families just happy to be together in such a significant point of history. Michelle Hulsmeyer was happy the school gave her the opportunity to watch the inauguration with her three children – Zach, 9; Ben, 7; and Hannah, 5.
“It’s nice that the school opened its doors so we could all experience it together. I think my older kids will understand it more, but even my kindergartener knows that’s Barack Obama, so she’s somewhat cognizant of what’s going on.”
Some children weren’t just cognizant, some were genuinely excited about the big day. The enthusiasm coming from 9-year-old Jared Baltzell over the last few days spread to his dad, Richard.
“I was thinking this is maybe the third one I’ve ever really paid attention to,” Richard said. “He (Jared) has been interested in it all week. His curiosities have made me more interested in it.”
The excitement has even spread to his 5-year-old daughter Miranda.
“They’ve both been intrigued with it all week. It’s been fun watching it with them,” Richard said.
Carla Breeding, the school’s principal, was thrilled to see such a big turnout of parents and children sharing the day together at Simpsonville Elementary.
“Most kids get one opportunity in elementary school to see an inauguration,” she said. “We wanted them to witness history with us. We didn’t want any child to miss the opportunity.”