On Bus Trip, Ky. Travelers Reveal Hopes For Obama

Hundreds of thousands of people are traveling to Washington to attend Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States. A caravan of four buses from Louisville, Ky., started off in the predawn darkness Monday.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. Untold throngs of people are headed to Washington for tomorrow's inauguration. NPR's Ina Jaffe is riding with one group, a four-bus caravan from Louisville, Kentucky.

INA JAFFE: The trip began in pre-dawn darkness, with the snow coming down and the amens rising up.

(Soundbite of people shouting "Hallelujah")

JAFFE: At a little send-off ceremony, the Reverend Thomas French asked God to watch over the inauguration and protect the travelers until they return home.

Reverend THOMAS FRENCH (Louisville, Kentucky): When we touch this ground again, we're going to say thank you, Jesus. Thank you. You have heard our cry.

JAFFE: That the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president is a historic event went without saying. Yet the people here couldn't say it enough. Also, because this is the day commemorating Martin Luther King, his legacy and especially, his "Dream" speech, were on everyone's mind. Nine-year-old Vickie Dennis(ph) has memorized a portion and will recite upon request.

Mr. VICKIE DENNIS: I have a dream that my four little children will live in a world that they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

JAFFE: With his gift for gab and outgoing manner, it was easy to picture Vickie running for office someday. His mother, Sheila Dennis(ph), said that the election of Barack Obama made it possible to imagine anything for her son.

Ms. SHEILA DENNIS (Mother of Vickie Dennis): Well, I tell him he can do anything he puts his heart to. As long as he studies, he can achieve his goals just like Barack did. You got to work hard.

Mr. DENNIS: Just like Martin Luther King did.

JAFFE: Like the Dennis family, nearly everyone in the caravan was African-American. The pride and wonder they felt that a black man becoming president was evident, but no more so than their belief that Barack Obama would unite the nation.

Ms. DEBBIE RUSSELL(ph): He's thinking about everyone, not just one, specific group.

JAFFE: Said Debbie Russell.

Ms. RUSSELL: Everybody. The United States of America - not black, white - everybody. And so I'm just happy. I want to cry.

JAFFE: All of the travelers know that tomorrow will be challenging - the crowds, the cold. But Debbie Russell said it was so important for her to be at the inauguration, she was ready for the hardships even though she has multiple sclerosis.

Ms. RUSSELL: I've got my wheelchair underneath the truck and my cane right here. And I've got people around me that's helping me. So I'm going to make it.

JAFFE: No matter how hard tomorrow is, she still can't wait for the day. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, on the bus to Washington, D.C.

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