FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 16, 2009
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Gina Logue, 615-898-5081
KENYANS AT MTSU REVEL IN INAUGURATION OF BARACK OBAMA
U.S. President-elect, Son of Kenyan, Inspires MTSU Students from African Nation
(MURFREESBORO) – The inauguration of Barack Obama has a special significance for Kenyan students attending MTSU. They expect the joy they will feel in celebrating Obama’s swearing-in ceremony to exceed even the elation they felt in celebrating his Election Night victory in November. “To me, it gave me a sense of hope that you can do anything once you set your mind to it,” says 21-year-old nursing major William Songock. “When Obama started running, probably few people had hopes that he was going to win, actually, but he did it.” Songock, a cross-country runner, hails from the village of Eldoret, a drive of three to four hours away from Kogelo, the village where Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was raised and where the President-elect’s paternal grandmother still lives. Songock says his uncle phoned him from Kenya after the election to ask if he voted for Obama, unaware that only American citizens can vote.
“The enthusiasm back in Kenya was really high,” Songock says. “For them, I think they were even more eager than some of us here.”
In fact, Songock says, Obama was on the front page of newspapers in Kenya for seven days after the election. The day following the election was declared a national holiday by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. “I know people in Africa and all around the world are hopeful about Obama,” says BenVictor Sang, a 26-year-old math major. “I’m very optimistic America will be viewed as a different country from the last eight years.” Sang says Obama endured a lot of criticism from people who thought he had no chance, but he proved his critics wrong. “He showed that anything is possible, especially in this country where there is democracy,” Sang says. Sang says when he called his family home in Kenya on Election Night, there was singing, dancing, partying and car-horn honking in the streets. “It makes me feel very proud to have a president with a Kenyan connection,” Sang says. Although that’s a point of pride for Songock, too, he says there’s more to it than that.
“I see President-elect Obama not only as an African-American,” says Songock. “I see him first as a President of the United States, somebody who is going to bring change. The fact that he has African roots and, to make it more specific, Kenyan (roots), gives me even more sense of hope.”
Sang is especially hopeful that Obama will improve the financial climate in the U.S. “Being a foreign student, I felt the impact of the economy,” Sang says. “It seems he (Obama) is really on the right path.”
While critics complain that Americans have been too focused on choosing a president with whom they’d like to have a beer, Kenyans are in love with a beer with whom they have a president. Senator Beer, a barley-based lager brewed in Kenya, was created after Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois in 2004. Drinkers call it simply “Obama.” The manufacturer, East African Breweries Limited, renamed it “President Beer” and distributed a limited edition of the beverage with the updated label. Songock says he hasn’t tasted “Obama” because he’s a teetotaler, but he says he knows it has been a top seller. “The beer just sold out,” Songock says. “People really drank, and they feasted, and they were so happy.” Both Songock and Sang say they hope to watch the inauguration on television with their fellow Kenyan students (Geoffrey Lagat, Festus Chemoor, Julius Kirui, and Isaac Biwatt) since they enjoyed Election Night coverage together. Songock says he thinks his professors will understand if he misses class just this once. “It’s very important, not only to me, but to other people,” he says.