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High school math teacher to attend presidential inauguration

With the 57th presidential inauguration just around the corner, many enthused Americans have bought tickets and booked rooms all over the nation’s Capitol in preparation for one of the biggest events in American history. 

Sandra Garner-Garner-Coleman, a local Halifax County High School math teacher, is one of the many who has made plans to attend this year’s inauguration.

 “This will be a climatic finish to an event in history that I very much want to be a part of,” Garner-Coleman said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see an Afro-American be elected president again, and I want to be there for all of it.”

Garner-Coleman said she was very excited that this year’s inauguration will be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“When I found out that he was going to be inaugurated on Martin Luther King’s national holiday, that’s another reason I wanted to go, because it would be a climactic finish to a long journey for
Afro- Americans,” Garner-Coleman said. 

Garner-Coleman is very excited about what the 57th inauguration will bring.

“I am looking forward to connecting with people across the country and friends that I know are that going to be there, and we will witness the swearing in of our 44th president,” Garner-Coleman said.

She also had planned to attend the inaugural ball this year, until tickets reached unaffordable prices after a glitch with Ticketmaster.

Garner-Coleman is now thinking about attending a concert Sunday night at the national mall before the ceremonies take place.

The high school math teacher also attended the 56th presidential inauguration back in 2009 when president Obama was elected to his first term and claims it was an experience of a lifetime.

 “I really didn’t know what to expect last time. People told us about the security and how tight it was going to be, what we would be able to do and what we wouldn’t be able to do, but it really wasn’t like that,” Garner-Coleman said.

She recalled inauguration day four years ago waking up at 3:30 a.m. to be on the mass transit train by 4 a.m. She said there was a long line to get on the train, and four stops ahead, the Capitol was blocked due to tight security measures.  So she had to walk a couple of blocks to get to the National Mall.  

Garner-Coleman said she stood in line until the barricades were open to the National Mall before making her way to where the swearing in took place. 

Some of the Smithsonian museums had opened up as warming stations for those waiting in line, she recalled. She and others mingled and bought souvenirs, but they always left some one to hold their spot in line.

“Once they open up the gates to the National Mall, you claim your spot.  So you want to get as close as you can get because they have preferred seating, and I wanted to get as close as I could get to the preferred seating because I didn’t have a ticket,” Garner-Coleman said.

 She asked her local representative for a ticket but never received one, so she said she didn’t know what to expect.

“You’re not going to get that seating around the stage. Only important people get there, but the other seating was a 50-yard block of space around the Capitol building. Those are the seats you can get through your congressman,” Garner-Coleman said.

After the swearing in ceremonies, Garner-Coleman attended the inaugural parade and watched as the 44th president of the United States marched down Pennsylvania Avenue with his First Lady.  Garner-Coleman said later that night she and family members watched the inaugural ball from their hotel room.

Garner-Coleman said she attended the 56th inauguration on behalf of her father.

“I went to represent my father because he voted in every election. I made the journey on behalf of my parents because my father had to pay a poll tax to vote and had to pass a literacy test, and because my father couldn’t read, he would hold me up in his arms, so I could read the names on the ballots so he would know which one to pull. So I went on behalf of my father, for every election he voted in and didn’t have the ability to read. I knew this would be a moment to remember for my father.”

Garner-Coleman explained the poll tax and literacy test were used to keep African-Americans from voting, and taxes were six cents.

“That was a lot of money back then,” Garner-Coleman said.

The county woman worked aggressively on the Obama campaign during both elections. She canvassed neighborhoods, hosted house parties, helped people at the polls and gave seniors at her church a ride to the polls on Election Day.

“It was important for me to elect President Obama in 2008 because I felt he was the most qualified candidate. McCain by far was not the person who would implement change in America.  The demographics in America has changed, and President Obama represents that part of the demographics,” Garner-Coleman said. 

“We are no longer white America. It’s a cross section of people, and we have to have a person in there that is going to be consciously aware of everybody. We have all kinds of nationalities, and the fact that President Obama was campaigning on change; I attached to the change he wanted to make because this is just not white America, black America, blue America, this is this the United States of America, and we stand united as a people of all races.”

Garner-Coleman said it was these beliefs that led her to want to elect Obama to a second term.

“Everything that he did while he in was in office the last four years was pointing in a positive direction in bringing about the changes he wanted,” Garner-Coleman concluded.