An emotional gathering at Rivier

NASHUA – When everyone on the U.S. Capitol steps stood for Barack Obama to take the oath of office, almost everyone in a crowded Rivier College function room moved to their feet as well.

Obama was sworn in as president about 500 miles away, yet many of the Rivier students and faculty members who watched his inauguration on a large-screen television felt as if they had a front-row seat of history.

“It kind of gave me goosebumps,” senior Jennifer Pelletier said.

Pelletier was happy the transfer of power from George Bush to Obama was complete after two years of campaigning and two months of transition.

Now, Obama has the tough task of pulling the country out of a recession, withdrawing troops from Iraq and handling a score of other domestic and foreign issues, many people said.

Kristina O’Keefe, an administrative assistant in the college’s nursing department, had swollen eyes from crying throughout the inauguration. Obama becoming president gives hope to the country and the world, she said.

“I’m very encouraged,” O’Keefe said. “We’re ready for hope, and we’re ready for a new direction.”

The college offered the event on televisions in two buildings with the enticement of free pizza and drinks. But many undoubtedly would have come without the offer of food.

In a meeting room at the Dion Center, more than a hundred people huddled around tables and cheered when Obama was introduced and cheered even louder when he finished the oath.

No one booed when Bush appeared on the screen, but there were a few grumblings.

Leslie Van Wagner smiled when Bush and his wife boarded a helicopter to leave Washington. Earlier, immediately after Obama’s address, Van Wagner – director of the college’s writing and resource center – remarked aloud that she was pleased to now have a president who spoke proper English.

Van Wagner likes how Obama promised to reach out to other countries. He needs to restore America’s reputation while solving problems here, she said.

Freshman Sophia Spadafora also enjoyed the ceremony because it meant Obama had replaced Bush. “I’m so glad Bush is out of office. I’m relieved,” she said.

Obama, though, does have his “work cut out for him,” Spadafora said. He needs to move the economy and get troops out of Iraq, but he can accomplish both, she said.

Yet not everyone gushed over Obama.

Senior Dana Flynn is a Republican. She appreciated Obama’s inauguration speech but didn’t cheer as loudly as those who were partisan.

“I do respect what he is doing,” Flynn said. “I hope he follows through.”

But clearly, the inauguration meant different things to different people.

Graduate student Scott Mays said it seemed as if he was watching a movie.

Inaugurations typically don’t excite him because they seem made for the politicians in Washington, Mays said. But Obama’s day seemed like it was made for the people, he said.