A slice of Americana in Crested Butte

“It is what it is, baby…”
        —Dean of Students Bob Picarro

It wasn’t exactly a 21st century scene at the school Tuesday morning. But in the end, that made it all the better. One parent likened the setting to watching the first moon landing.
It was a scene straight out of small town Americana known to anyone who has attended public school in this country.
In a dim hallway, light from two small television sets beamed the scene from Washington, D.C. to local students sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at the Crested Butte Community School. In this town, eight-year-olds from the grade school sat next to 18-year-old high school seniors as they watched a black man, Barack Obama, take the oath of office to become the 44th President of the United States of America. History was being witnessed as it so often has in our country the past few generations … around a TV set with community. It was a powerful picture.

“On this day we gather because we have chosen hope over fear…”
        —Barack Obama

In what appeared to be a last-minute decision, teachers scrambled to get an Internet feed projected onto a big screen in the multi-purpose room. No go. Apparently the T-1 line was overwhelmed. A lot of people were using the Internet Tuesday morning.
So with one cable outlet in the school located by the library, a couple of televisions were set up in the hallway. They were small and the staff got them working about the time Obama placed his hand on the Bible. Because they weren’t synced to the sound, one had a two-second delay between the picture and the words. But it didn’t matter.
Hundreds of kids gathered and seemed to feel the magnitude of the situation. Teachers teared up as Obama finished the oath.

“The world has changed and we must change with it.”
        —Barack Obama

History in this country was made Tuesday and the Crested Butte students were watching with intensity and with respect. A full school crowded into a hallway decorated with elementary school projects and listened to a call for action.

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility…”
        —Barack Obama

The kids applauded a few times. But for the most part, they were enthralled. The children of this community came together, sat on the floor and watched. That in itself is somewhat amazing. No one goofed around. No one rolled their eyes. Some wore Obama t-shirts. They all seemed to understand the moment. And then Obama finished his speech…

“…and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
            —Barack Obama

The future generation he was addressing was listening. At about 10:35 when the National Anthem was played, some of the kids placed their hands over their hearts.
Then they went back to class. Their lives went on like normal.
And I’d like to think that twenty, thirty, fifty years from now, they will remember sitting in a dark, hot school hallway in a small Colorado town watching history being made. And they will be part of the change.

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