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Local inauguration celebration event draws nearly 1,000

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By Alice Du Pont

For people who couldn't make the trip to attend the festivities in Washington, D.C. to watch the country’s 44th presdent sworn in, a 12-hour event at the Quincy Conference Center was a good substitute Tuesday.

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Throughout the day, nearly 1,000 people stopped in to enjoy free barbecue dinners, watch one of several big-screen televisions that broadcast the festivities or to be around people celebrating history.

It was during the oath of office and the 18-minute speech that the crowd grew silent.

When it was over, 11-year-old Terrell Faulk said the speech was "very good." He and his 9-year-old cousin, Jamell Hall, left school early to watch the oath and speech with his mother.

"The thing that I remember most is when he talked about taking responsibility. I think that people and children should take more responsibility for what they do. I'm going to try to take more responsibility," Faulk said.

"I learned from the speech that it takes hard work and that you have to rise up to meet challenges," Hall said.

Gadsden County Sheriff's Office chaplain Jimmy Salters said Obama's speech parallels the lessons he has tried to teach inmates at the jail.

"Believe it or not, I'm constantly telling them to face up to their responsibilities and be responsible for the actions they take and the part they've played in their circumstances. (Obama) was telling the American people that if they will just be responsible it will reduce the populations in our jail, reduce teen pregnancy and it will make a difference," Salters said.

He praised Obama for saying Tuesday what, he said, should have been said years ago.

Anthony Thomas, career military retiree, said Obama has always been a good speaker and able to cover most of the bases in a speech. His inaugural address was no different.

"It's time for us to lose all of the euphoria and get to work," Thomas said.

Five teenagers sat on a sofa in the reception area of the conference center away, from the crowd. Paper in hand, each listened intently to every word Obama had to say. A few took notes. They were students from The Community Learning Institute and were required to write a two-page essay on the speech.

"I'm going to write about his talking about doing the right thing and taking responsibility for yourself," said Deon Webster, 15.

Amelia Price couldn't stay long but wanted to stop in to connect with other Obama supporters. The speech, she thought, was great.

"I'm proud to have the opportunity in my lifetime to see our nation finally come together as one. I especially liked the part when he talked about 60 years ago when his father would not have been allowed to go inside a restaurant to sit down and eat. I'm not nearly 60 years old and I remember that right here in Gadsden County when I was growing up," Price said.

And it was memories like Price's that prompted Gary Clary and his wife, Elizabeth, to spearhead the celebration.

"I did this in honor of my grandfather and my father and all of those people who worked so hard to make a difference in this country. The people who were treated like second-class citizens for so long and the people who marched, walked the picket lines, who were in the boycotts and who were on the front lines just registering people to vote. It took us 400 years to get here and why can't we spend 12 hours celebrating?" Clary asked.

He also had praise for corporate and individual sponsors of the event, as well as the volunteers who prepared and served food all day.