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VP Bingham Offers View of Inauguration University News
By Rosie Bingham

Dr. Rosie Bingham
Dr. Rosie Bingham
It was Tuesday night after the Tennessee State Society Inauguration Ball. My husband, John Davis, and I were shivering on a very cold below 25- degrees corner in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. trying to hail a taxi. Suddenly a light gray mini van pulled right in front of us. The female driver rolled down the window and said, “It’s cold out there. Get in and if you trust me, my brother and I will take you wherever you want go ‘cause that’s what Obama said we should do.” We hesitated for a nano-second and hopped in. They took us right to our hotel. That’s the way it was all day and night. That’s the kind of attitude that was apparent all over the District of Columbia on inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2009.

John and I had started our journey to the National Mall at 7:30 a.m. to see the first African American sworn in as President of the United States of America. We had naively thought that was early enough to get to the metro train so that we could be in line by 9 a.m. when the gates would open for us to enter through the silver section where we would stand and witness the inauguration. While we were among the people who had tickets farthest away, we would be closer than two-thirds of the two million people who would be on the National Mall. We had envisioned getting close enough to at least see the Capitol steps with the tiny speck that would be all the program dignitaries, but really close enough to see them on the jumbo viewing screens. Although we were at the very first stop on the Orange Metro line out of Maryland, imagine our surprise when we got to the train station and found a line that was two hours long! And the temperature was a mere 22 degrees. But spirits in the crowd were warm and helpful.

I began to worry about getting to the ceremony in time, but we were finally packed on a train and on our way. A black man quickly gave up his seat to a white man who had a bad back. My spirits soared … then wavered when we got off the train only to find another impossibly long line waiting to get through the silver gate to get on to the Mall. The crowd was densely packed and though still helping each other, there was anxiety in the air as it became apparent that all of us might not get in. As we surged forward and then were stopped short of the gate, we began waving our tickets and chanting, “Let us in! Let us in.” Then my section of the crowd surged in.

I had lost my husband, but every stranger around me became my family as we glowed in the moment. At last this daughter of a garbage man who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Memphis sanitation strike and carried one of the “I am a Man” signs; this woman who now improbably serves as vice president at the University of Memphis where black students at one time were not allowed to attend; this woman who could not cry when Barack Obama won the election, finally exhaled and at the conclusion of the oath of office when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said, “Congratulations, Mr. President,” I and my big family wept with joy. The dream became reality.

Dr. Rosie Bingham is a native Memphian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology/Education from Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill., and received a Master of Arts degree in Counseling and Guidance and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from The Ohio State University. She started her career in higher education in 1972 at Ohio State and moved to the University of Florida in 1978. Bingham was associate director of the Counseling Center at the University of Florida prior to being hired as director for the Center for Student Development at the U of M in 1985. She held this position until 1993, when she became the assistant vice president for Student Affairs/Student Development. After a national search, Bingham was selected as vice president for Student Affairs in 2003.

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