As President Barack Obama took the oath of office at yesterday’s inauguration, hundreds of members of the MIT community looked on from lecture halls and communal spaces. Students expressed a cautious optimism for the future.
Employees not normally free midday were given breaks to watch the event, which was broadcast in five lecture halls. A crowd of watchers filled 32-123, with some sitting on the floor; and about a hundred people turned out to watch the events in the Ashdown dining hall.
Students who watched the inauguration expressed cautious optimism in Obama’s prospects for leading a nation through a time of crisis.
Dima Ayyash ’12 was born in Palestine and thinks that Obama will improve America’s image abroad. She looks forward to American troops’ withdrawal from Iraq, although she said a presence in Afghanistan will help stabilize the Middle East. But in “the bubble of MIT,” Ayyash said she doubted Obama would do much to affect her life.
Adam J. Leonard ’12, an Obama phone volunteer, said he was excited for the new administration. He thought that the media had focused too much on the race of America’s first black president throughout the campaign. Some MIT students had largely ignored the campaign, he said, which he thought was a shame because of its historic significance.
Jake Gable, a senior in political science at Boston University, said that Obama had challenged a political apathy he had developed through years working on grassroots political campaigns. For the first time in years, Obama gave him hope for real change, he said. Gable, who described himself as a socialist, said he was pleased by Obama’s reception overseas, especially in Europe.
Students interviewed said they cared most about Obama’s potential to improve America’s foreign relations. Many students said they hoped for bipartisan policymaking. And some said they hoped for more research support: the crowd in 10-250 erupted into cheers when Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place” in his inaugural address.
Students said they thought the address was the highlight of the ceremony, while they found other parts — the swearing in, the benediction, the poetry, and more — superfluous.