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Few students view Obama’s second inauguration

Posted on 02.06.2013

As President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term on Jan. 21, a few University of  Indianapolis students, staff and faculty watched a live stream in the  Schwitzer Student Center. Executive Director of Student Services Dan Stoker coordinated the event.

“Any kind of presidential inauguration is historic, and we need to make that available in order to engage the community,” Stoker said. “It’s about civic understanding and civic engagement.”

The first viewing party occurred in 2009 and was better attended, Stoker said.  However, he plans to continue them.

“I mean, our attendance was definitely much lower, but … in four years, we will still go ahead, no matter who’s elected, and offer the opportunity. It’s a simple thing for us to do—just to be able to stream it and make it available,” Stoker said.

Factors for low attendance could include the altered schedule due to the Martin Luther King Day convocation and a lack of advertising.

President Barack Obama prepares to be sworn in for his second term by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Jan. 21 in Washington D.C. Photo from Getty Images/MCT.

“I think that there was a lot of hype and excitement for President Obama being the first African-American president and being [his] the first inauguration,” Stoker said. “Four years later, there’s still that energy, but it’s the second term.”

Obama’s popularity declined during his first term, according to a Jan. 17 report by the Pew Research Center. Obama received a 52 percent approval rating—down from the 64 percent at the start of his first term. At the start of their respective second terms, George W. Bush had a 50 percent approval rating, and Bill Clinton had 59 percent.

According to Interim Director of the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives and Associate Professor of History and Political Science Edward Frantz, a president’s second inauguration is not usually the stuff of legend.

“People rarely look back at them [second inaugurals] as defining moments in a presidency, with one really, really notable exception … which was Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural, which some regard as an even better speech than the Gettysburg address,” Frantz said.  “I have to think more, and time will tell where to put President Obama’s address. But it was a lot closer to that—and in that realm—than I think people expected it to be.”

Frantz said that every presidential inauguration is important, because it helps Americans to reflect on where we are as a nation and reassess where we want to go.

“At heart, I think one of the useful functions of inaugurations is they provide moments of optimism,” Frantz said.

Sophomore English and theatre major Rai Williams said that he heard about the event from the Black Student Association. Williams said that he also expected a bigger turnout.

“Sometimes, with our generation, I just don’t know whether it matters today. It just seems like they’re involved with the wrong things,”  Williams said. “They don’t seem to care much.”

Williams said that figuring out how to get students involved in the process is the golden question.

“I heard people talk like, ‘Oh, my vote doesn’t count’ or ‘Why should I care because I’m just one person?’ There’s so many of those attitudes,” Williams said. “I like the idea that the university is doing more to promote that [involvement]. But, honestly, just keep it going.”

According to Frantz, professors will participate in these events if students show interest, but efforts to encourage civic involvement will only succeed if they start with students. Not taking advantage of that, he said, is a missed opportunity.

“Regardless of party, they [inaugurations] are moments that the country should take a step back. And it’s always  four years to reset, reassess and think about what our priorities are,” Frantz said. “And if we do that and we model that and we can have those conversations on college campuses, in my mind, that’s a lot of what we’re supposed to be doing.”


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