USF political science professors analyze inaugural events

Coverage of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th president of the United States filled CNN, FOX News and MSNBC throughout Tuesday. Network analysts went over everything from the specifics of “the Beast” — the new presidential vehicle — to Michelle Obama’s fashion choice. USF professors had their own opinions on Tuesday’s event.

Professor and political scientist Susan MacManus watched the ceremony from the side of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

“This is absolutely historic,” she said.

More than 1 million people were in Washington for the inauguration, according to the Associated Press. MacManus said one reason for the high attendance was that many people were involved with the election, so they wanted to be involved with the celebration.

Another reason for the large crowd was that many people — of all ages — had thought they would never live to see a black man as president, said Michael Gibbons, associate professor of political science.

Obama expressed the same thought in his inaugural address when he said: “A man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

Many also recognized this as the sixth or seventh most morally significant election in American history, Gibbons said.

MacManus, who attended both of George W. Bush’s inaugurations, said this one was special for different reasons, like its size and the politeness of the people.

“It’s a huge crowd but a unified one,” she said. “Usually with crowds, people are pushing and complaining about standing in line. There is nothing like that here.”

MacManus said many people described the general feeling in Washington as inspirational, especially when Obama talked about everyone coming together. She said she sees parallels between Obama and Ronald Reagan, as they both created a sense of hope in a time of uncertainty.

She also said many younger people she talked to told her they wanted to get more involved in their community and government.

“It (the Obama era) will inspire the younger generation to think of careers in public service as an option,” MacManus said.

Gibbons said he found Obama’s speech interesting.

“He made it clear that the intention of his administration is to be substantially different than the previous administration,” he said. “Of course, that is not surprising — that is what he campaigned on and that’s why people voted for him.”

Janna Merrick, professor of government and international affairs, said the confusion with Chief Justice John Roberts during the swearing-in statement made for some confusion for the president.

“I think that made Barack Obama uncomfortable as he started his inaugural speech,” she said.

Merrick also said it took three or four minutes for Obama to get into the rhythm of the speech.

“I thought what he had to say about our allies and our enemies was very impressive,” she said.

Additional reporting by Julia Pappacoda