BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Approximately two million people attended the Inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. last week. Only a small fraction of them were actually close enough to see the swearing-in ceremony without the aid of binoculars or a giant TV screen. Signal Hill City Councilman Ed Wilson was one of those lucky few. “I was only a few rows from the platform,” he said. “It was a very moving experience.”
Wilson added that he and the rest of the audience were very much in a celebratory mood with many people expressing hope and joy. He met people from many nations and virtually every state in the Union. “People came from all around the world to participate,” he said. “Everyone that I talked to mentioned how historic it was, not just for the United States, but for the whole world.”
He noted that many of the people he spoke with expressed their belief that the nation’s international relations would improve now that Obama was president. “There is a sense of hope that we are going to communicate more and respect the opinions of others,” Wilson said. He added that more than 13,000 people participated in the inaugural parade and many more thousands stood on the sidelines watching it go by. “In the parade they had a group or a band from every state in the Union,” he said. “It was a call for inclusion.”
Wilson attended the inauguration as a representative of the City of Signal Hill and as a private citizen. “There were a lot of things going on in D.C besides the inauguration,” he explained. “There was a mayors conference and meetings related to the stimulus package. I went to present our package and to meet with our congressional staff, which was just the right time because we presented them with a number of projects like the new police station, Cherry Avenue widening, the water recycling project, pump number nine that needs money to be completed, and a number of other infrastructure projects.” He added that Congresswoman Laura Richardson’s staff said they would probably use the wording in the city’s request for federal money to present Signal Hill’s case for stimulus package funding.” He explained that that because he went to Washington to help get federal funding for Signal Hill infrastructure projects, the city paid for his airfare, and hotel accommodations.
“I have to thank Congresswoman Laura Richardson and Senator Diane Feinstein for providing me with the ticket to attend the actual inauguration” he said. “It was very nice of them to recognize the city and myself.”
Wilson also attended a number of other events, including the Congressional Black Caucus Ball and the Hispanic Ball. “Everywhere I went, people were just celebrating Obama’s victory,” he said. “During the campaign a lot of people were wondering if he could win, but I always believed he could because when I was elected in 1997 in Signal Hill, a lot of people felt I couldn’t get elected. I felt that the people of America were ready to vote for the person they felt was the best candidate for the job regardless of the color of their skin.”
During the election, Wilson met Obama three times and participated in group discussions with him. “He is extremely intelligent and has a very good memory,” Wilson said, noting that he was impressed that Obama remembered him in spite of the thousands of people he had met on the campaign trail.
Seeing Obama get elected and sworn in had a strong impact on Wilson. “It made me want to rededicate myself as a public servant and work even harder to get good things done,” he said. “Obviously one of the biggest issues President Obama is facing is the economy, but I think he has the strong support of the American people because they realize the stimulus plan he is proposing will put many people back to work and really help get us out of this recession.”
Wilson said that the fact that Obama was African American was energizing and inspiring African Americans throughout the United States. “It says to people of color and women that if you believe in something, and you work hard and follow through, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to do,” Wilson said. “My parents used to tell me that all the time when I was a kid, and I believe it, but now Obama has proven it to everyone by getting elected to the highest office in our land.”
Wilson said he wept tears of joy while Obama was taking the oath of office. “This is just validation that the American dream is available to everyone and because of that I think there is a new sense of hope and inspiration for people of all races in America,” he said.