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Brian Williams & Tom Brokaw kept me watching

By Matt Rocheleau, Collegian Staff

When I sat down Tuesday evening to try and write about what I did on Inauguration Day, I couldn’t – which is why I waited until now.

It wasn’t that I had writer’s block or that I did not have anything to say; rather, I was just tired of the whole thing.

Reporting for The Collegian, I had spent most of the morning and early afternoon covering several local gatherings where people, mainly Obama supporters, joined to watch the telecast of the inauguration festivities in Washington D.C.

My last stop of the day, but most notable, was at the University of Massachusetts’s screening where an estimated 1,000 people watched network coverage of the inauguration, according to event planner Kevin Libby, a senior majoring in Social Thought and the Political Economy.

The turnout was much greater than the 50 to 100 originally expected and event organizers opened The Hatch food court to make room for those who could not fit in the packed Cape Cod Lounge and Student Union Ballroom. If you don’t believe me, there’s video footage from The Collegian to prove it.

Hundreds wait for the doors to open at the screening of Tuesday's inaugural telecast at the Academy of Music in Northampton. (Collegian/Matt Rocheleau)

Hundreds wait for the doors to open at the screening of Tuesday's inaugural telecast at the Academy of Music in Northampton. (Collegian/Matt Rocheleau)

Prior to going to UMass, I had started my morning in Northampton where it was a full house at the Academy of Music. By the time I arrived at around 10:30 a.m., hundreds were lined up outside waiting to watch the inaugural broadcast. About 800 people had packed into the theater by the event’s scheduled start at 11 a.m., according to Debra J’ Anthony, the venue’s executive director. Another 600 showed up for the rebroadcast at 6 p.m., she said.

After leaving Northampton, I headed to Rafters Sports Bar & Restaurant in Amherst where an inauguration get-together was also held. Inside, it was tough to find a table or place to sit with still about an hour before Barack Obama’s swearing in and subsequent speech at noon.

A packed crowd at Rafters Sports Bar & Restaurant in Amherst gather to watch the broadcast of Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday afternoon. (Collegian/Matt Rocheleau)

A packed crowd at Rafters Sports Bar & Restaurant in Amherst gather to watch the broadcast of Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday afternoon. (Collegian/Matt Rocheleau)

When I finally returned to my apartment I turned on the TV and began working on the article, which was published in The Collegian’s “Back to School” issue on January 26. Of course, what was on but NBC’s inaguration coverage that I had watched for a short time before I headed out that morning.

I’m a big fan of “NBC Nightly News” host Brian Williams and an ever bigger fan of his predecessor, Tom Brokaw who stepped down in 2004. So, when I saw the two were seated side-by-side covering the ceremonies in D.C., along with other recognizable NBC reporters, I decided to watch for a little while. And, I must say that Williams & Brokaw are an unstoppable punch when teamed up like they were on Tuesday.

Then, during what seemed like the only 15 minutes of the day where cameras weren’t fixed on Obama, Sen. Ted Kennedy allegedly collapsed during a lunch with the newly appointed president and other political leaders. Kennedy reportedly suffered a seizure and was whisked away to the hospital. So, I stayed tuned as all of this news was breaking.

Later, Obama, his wife and two daughters rolled along on the parade route through downtown D.C. Brian Williams kept mentioning how much security there was and called the city the safest place to be. Naturally, the more he talked about it the more concerned I got that he was being overconfident in his assessment, which kept me watching.

All in all, I had heard the word inauguration and the name Barack Obama way too many times. The whole thing was a bit much for me.

Our new president should be commended for his historic victory in the November’s election, but enough is enough with all of the praise, celebrating and patting one another on the back.

I don’t think Obama has done anything wrong. In fact, I think he will be an alright president.

However, many of his supporters and some members of the media have painted this man as the savior our country has been waiting for. He has become, in many peoples’ eyes, a world-renowned, rock-star-esque figure incapable of making a mistake.

And, why?

I had asked numerous people to specify what it is about Barack Obama that made this inaugruation so special. And, among all of the answers they gave, none were actual achievements; rather they describe vague character traits, like that he seems intelligent and community-oriented.

This country put on nearly a week-long celebration for someone who seems nice, smart and has some arguably good ideas in how to lead our nation.

I don’t doubt that Obama can make a difference and improve things in the U.S. However, based on what I saw on Tuesday, I worry that some of us have fallen so in love with this man that we will fail to our job.

Barack Obama will disappoint us at times; and, the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can focus on our responsibility to hold him accountable for the choices he makes.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at

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