COMPILED BY ANDREW DAVIS
Windy City Times got the reactions of various people to the historic transition that took place last week as Barack Obama became the country's newest commander-in-chief:
—Greg Koeppen, Lakeview resident: Standing on the Capitol grounds during the swearing in, I was filled with a sense of pride as well welcomed our new President and his administration. The challenges we, as Americans, face in the coming years are complex and varied.
Although I myself have been a lifelong Republican, I truly believe we needed a change for America. That change is here and now is the time for Americans to come together to support the new administration.
As we stood 30 feet from the president and first lady at the Home State's Ball during their first dance, I couldn't help but think this is the man who will lead us to that next level. Not only is this an exciting time for those of us from Illinois, but for people around the World. His message was clear as we watched him deliver his speech. The United States is and always will be number one.
This past week in D.C. was an amazing experience for me and those I attended with.
—David Cerda, Hell in a Handbag Productions artistic director: My cynical side tried not to hail Obama as the new messiah, like so many others are doing. After all, he is still a politician from one of the two major parties, but he has an irresistible charm and charisma that I gauge as genuine, so I am very happy for him and the country. I look forward to Mr. Obama challenging the antiquated bipartisanship system and remembering the separation of church and state. I'm sick of people using God as an excuse to deny others their basic rights as Americans.
—DeMarco Majors, semipro basketball player and Gay Games competitor: All the dreams I have had to just deal with issues in my everyday life, including poverty; living in a single-parent dysfunctional home; and being Black in an all-white town. I also experienced taunts for being gay; racism in Indiana and San Francisco; the cross-burning I witnessed in 1998; being kicked out of my pro sports clubs and my church for being gay; and my father dying in front of me; despite all that, I achieved excellence and am changing this world the best way I know how. Seeing Barack Obama stand there with his proud wife and children made me proud to be an American—not Black, not gay, not anything other than American—for the first time in my life. I felt as though I belonged in this country, where any dream put to action can and will come true.
—Donna Rose, longtime Chicago African-American lesbian poet/activist: This is so historic/transformative on so many levels, for all of us ... a true African American, James Brown in the White House, maybe on Saturday mornings. There were all of the marches—our first protests and being harassed for being. I'm not saying that all is immediately well, but I am confident that there is such a shift in our collective karma as a nation. We can/must live up to our promise! And no one is so well-suited. Maybe now there will be a halt on stereotypical depictions of people of color ... a compassionate white house for people instead of big biz.
—Michael O' Connor, activist: I'm optimistic that President Obama's transition to power will attempt to address the bureaucratic maze that has governed this country for the last eight years.
I'd like President Obama to sign an executive order that makes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) transgender-inclusive, to counter the legislation that fell apart in the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall of 2007.
I'd like President Obama to use his office's significant power to authorize the next attorney general to investigate the legal malfeasance that exists across this country as it pertains to HIV/AIDS service providers across this country.
I know it's highly unlikely, but I wish his office would do something about the fact that some HIV/AIDS service-provider organizations, through blatant mismanagement or legal malfeasance, have failed to adequately meet the healthcare needs of many within the African-American communities—despite the fact that there has been an increase in funding by tens of million of dollars to combat HIV and AIDS. For example, African Americans constitute about 15 percent of Illinois' population, but make up more than 50 percent of people living with the virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which provided The Chicago Reporter with data from 2003 to 2007.
—Mike Bauer, political activist: Being present at Barack Obama's swearing-in turned out to be surprisingly emotional for me. To see him take the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States, combined with watching the helicopter carry off George Bush, created this incredible feeling that our long nightmare of the past eight years was finally over.
—Dick Uyvari, philanthropist: On the morning of the inauguration, I left Germantown, Md.—which was about 30 miles northwest of the Capitol—at 9 in the morning and arrived at about 11 a.m. We were steered about 10 blocks west of where I had wanted to go, because all the close spots were already full. So I ended up near the Washington Monument with about 200,000 other people.
Although the crowd was massive, it was extremely orderly. We could see and hear everything going on by way of an enormous TV screen that had been set up, like those in other parts of the mall. It was an exhilirating experience. The positive energy of the crowd was infectious. There were Black, white, brown and all colors in between; young, old and not-so-old; women, men and children; and lesbian, gay, bi and straight. We were all as one—full of hope and joy that this day "at last" had come along. People, cheered, sang, danced, cried, laughed and enjoyed themselves completely, despite the cold 26-degree weather. I had not seen this type of euphoria since the days of JFK in 1961-63, when I was in my late teens. Tuesday was an overwhelming experience that is hard to put in words. I felt honored and privileged to have been there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to be cherished and never forgotten.
—Mike McRaith, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation: Joy. Joy in hope. Joy that truth matters. Joy that we have an African-American president. Joy that the sacrifice of generations came to fruition. Joy that Democrats will lead. Joy that my friends who worked years for this day were celebrating with the beautiful, rich and famous. Joy that the president can speak and I can again listen. Joy that the silent voice of the poor and sick can be heard. Joy that the man illustrating the dignity and nobility of public service to the nation and to the world is from Illinois. Joy that the president plays basketball, a team sport.
—Modesto "Tico" Valle, Center on Halsted executive director: A theme shared by Center on Halsted and our new president is the overarching idea of Hope. Hope for a better future. Another aspect of our president's promise that resonates loudly with me is the call to build bridges—bridges that bring diverse people together through a mutual respect and shared humanity. There are many challenges for this incoming administration but, as members of the LGBT community, we must ensure that, collectively, all are moving forward and none are left behind. The voices of our talented and compassionate community will help define what hope means for future generations.
—Jeannie Tanner, jazz singer/trumpeter: I was so inspired that I wrote a song. After it was finished, I realized that it would probably work better on US 99, as it has more of bluesy/country feel—so I sent a copy to the management of the Dixie Chicks. Anyway, here's a sample ( just the chorus and bridge ) :
I've never been more proud to be an American!
"Let Old Glory Fly"
We're Americans, in the land that we love;
We're gonna' work harder, cause the goin' is tough
The mirror tells the story, the truth can't hide
It's up to you and me, to let Old Glory fly!
In our hearts, with pride; And in our souls, deep inside;
A rebirth of a nation, with our conscience as its guide...
Let Old Glory fly!
Enduring peace, a dream to embrace
Across the globe, and in these United States
Hold your head up high, let your spirit sing -
Inspiration from within, let freedom ring..
—Michael Cook, Howard Brown Health Center CEO: "We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs."
Let us hope that these promising words from President Obama at his inauguration will set a new national direction in meeting the healthcare and research needs of the LGBT community. All of us at Howard Brown, and the 27,000 people we serve each year, are counting on President Obama to help us to do our work free of the religious precepts, political ideology and social bias that have plagued us for the last eight years. Reason, scientific inquiry and medical knowledge must guide us as we address the needs of our community. And we may now breathe easier because our president appears to understand quite well that equal access to quality healthcare is a basic human right.
While President Obama will certainly take actions that do not satisfy all of us, his basic instincts are firmly rooted in the best of the American tradition: equality, inclusion and fairness. We count on him to take us to that place he so eloquently described where "the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."
—Danny Kopelson, Center on Halsted director of communications and public affairs: I am more optimistic about Obama's leadership ability and the future of the country than I have ever been about any previous president. There is, however, caution in my optimism, as Obama has inherited two wars and the country in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Related specifically to Obama and LGBT issues, we've been promised things in the past and disappointed before. Time and history will tell.
—Dr. Thomas Gertz, dean of students at The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality: There really is hope! Within minutes after Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States, his civil-right agenda appeared on the new White House Web site ( www.whitehouse.gov ) . Listed under the agenda is "Support for the LGBT Community," which includes eight important issues for our community he plans on addressing during his Presidency.
Yes, after over 40 years of being a gay activist, including having served as president and vice president of Mattachine Midwest in Chicago, I finally do see hope. Thank you, Mr. President—I can sleep better now.