When Pat Shelby talks about Barack Obama as the new president, she mentions her 91-year-old uncle in Kansas, one of her daughters in Hawaii and other family members, both young and old.
Before the inauguration, Shelby called her uncle to celebrate the new president.
"I want to thank you for what you've done in the past to get us to this place," Shelby said.
People in Galt, Lodi and the rest of the nation gathered around their TVs on Tuesday morning to watch the historic inauguration of the first black president, hear his thoughts on the economy and even check out what previous first ladies were wearing.
After finding out she couldn't watch the inauguration online at work, Shelby headed next door to Cafe Latte Company coffee shop in Galt. Members of her class on job skills also came over to watch the inauguration. She works for the County of Sacramento Department of Human Assistance in Galt and lives in south Sacramento.
The inauguration of a black president was something she didn't expect in her lifetime, but the 51-year-old mother and grandmother was able to enjoy the moment and think back on all of her relatives who fought hard for civil rights.
"I certainly don't think issues like race, heath care and poverty will be resolved tomorrow, but I feel over the next four or eight years there will be an opportunity as a nation to make progress," Shelby said.
Shelby's family has always been in the struggle for equality, she said. Her grandfather was born into slavery and escaped to freedom in Kansas. He then went into Missouri to retrieve his mother.
Shelby's mother participated in the sit-ins and protests during the '60s.
And when she worked at the 7-Eleven in the small town of Sonoma, Shelby was confronted head-on with racism. "A man came in and said 'I haven't seen one of you here since we burnt the cross on their yard five years ago.' So I smiled back and said, 'We're back,'" Shelby said with a grin.
Now, while watching the inauguration, she hopes Obama's election will give people hope of what can be accomplished in America.
"He makes people hopeful that they can transcend their own status, not just race but socio-economic status, too … his legacy is the struggle of America becoming a better nation."
"It's a very significant, positive event," said John Takhar, member of the Darmesh Darbar Sikh Temple in Lodi. "It's a chance to improve our image around the world. Obama represents hope, a chance for a better tomorrow. It's great for America, proof that anyone in society can succeed. It's not that we're anti-Bush; we're not."
While eating lunch at Richmaid Restaurant, Pat Littlefield said she watched the inauguration and set her Tivo to record the event so her 9-year-old and 17-year-old grandkids could watch it when they got home from school. One of the things she looked forward to seeing was what outfits the first ladies choose for the occassion.
She has not spent much time thinking about how the election is historic for black people because she always thought anyone could become president in her lifetime.
For her, Obama's election is significant because she hopes he can turn the economy around. With tears in her eyes, she said she lost about a third of her savings - enough to send one of her grandkids to college - before she took her money out of the stock market.
"I wanted someone younger in there who would fight for the middle class," she said.
During Obama's speech, Littlefield said she also enjoyed his message on foreign policy.
"I like when he said, 'We are a country to be reckoned with, we will not put up with terrorism,'" Littlefield said.
While calling around to see if he could get work on a landscape job, Tony Perez sat with Sal Garcia on a bench on School Street. Both are out of work and want to see more jobs in the coming months. Perez is worried Obama might have too much on his plate.
"I think Obama has a whole bunch of promises he might not be able to keep," Perez said.
Garcia seemed a bit more hopeful and said Obama seems to be more focused on the middle class.
"If he does it, he'll be great. I hope he does. We really could use some help," Garcia said.
Regardless of the next four years to come, Shelby said history has made.
"Our kids will know such a different place," she said.
Staff writer Ross Farrow contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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