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NJ set to celebrate Obama inauguration

January 18, 2009 5:07:00 AM PST
From its largest cities to its smallest towns, New Jerseyans plan numerous events - ranging from formal balls to community-wide viewing parties - to mark an historic event that many never thought they would see: the inauguration Barack Obama, the nation's first black president. "I believe this will be one of those symbolically defining moments that we, as Americans, are often times greatly inspired by," said Clement Price, a historian and distinguished professor at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, who also is leading Obama's transition team for the National Endowment for the Humanities. "I have never seen anyone so capable of bringing people together and providing them with hope."

Some communities and private groups plan to stage gala festivities during the day, such as balls and parties where the inauguration and related events will be shown on giant screen televisions.

Others will be holding smaller gatherings at churches, halls and private homes.

In addition, the inauguration of the nation's 44th president also will be the topic of the day in public and private schools across the Garden State.

Many teachers in elementary, secondary and high schools plan to bring students together to watch the event and discuss its importance, while also highlighting the American tradition of peaceful transitions of power.

"When (Obama) puts his hand on the Bible and takes the oath of office, I want all our students to remember that moment," said Michael Pallante, principal of the Robert Treat Academy in Newark. "Maybe one day, one of our graduates will be up there, taking the oath of office. I want them to know that it's possible."

As Obama takes his oath in Washington, many high-ranking New Jersey officials - including Gov. Jon S. Corzine, members of the state's Congressional delegation and two prominent mayors who were early supporters of Obama, Jersey City's Jerramiah Healy and Newark's Cory Booker - will be on hand.

"We are thrilled that an individual with his intellect, charm, vision, eloquence and charisma is taking the reigns as the President of the United States of America and the leader of the free world," Healy said. "I am glad to know that in some way I played a small part by being an early and ardent supporter of his mission."

Many other officials, including state Sen. Ronald Rice, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, and Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman - said they plan to watch the inauguration in their own homes.

"We did what we had to do to help get him elected," Rice said. "So that's our history."

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