WARRENSBURG - As Barack Obama took his oath of office and became the first African-American president in US. history on Tuesday, a politically aware generation reflected on the significance of the event.
All over the North Country, students gathered around television monitors to watch the landmark event unfold.
Warrensburg Central School Junior Holly Gheen was among those who grasped the profound significance of the event which has captured the imagination of millions here in the U.S. - and across the globe.
"I think this has the power to shape ideas," Gheen said. "It seems like a lot of people didn't expect to see an African American president in their lifetime - it is now about who a person is, and not what they look like."
WCS Junior Statesman of America Club President Christian Bruce said that this inauguration may be something that will stay within the collective social conscious for decades to come, if not permanently.
"It's all about turning over a new leaf - reassessing what it means to be an American," Bruce said.
These sentiments were echoed by Lake George Central School student Christine Vivica.
"I honestly don't think people realize how important this whole event is," Vivica said. "It really comes down to hope - it isn't about race or class anymore - everyone deserves a fair shot."
Many students voiced optimism over the policies which President Obama has proposed.
"Hopefully, we can see a real economic boost because of his stimulus package," WCS Junior Whitney Galusha said.
Hope for the future was indeed that dominant theme as inspired students sat and watched oppressive barriers fall before their eyes.
Students from Warrensburg and Galway watched the inauguration ceremonies through an interactive television connection that brought the two social-studies classrooms together despite the many miles that separate the two towns physically.
"It's hard for people our age to imagine a president not George Bush," said Galway Central School Junior Justin Smith. "Although I didn't personally support Obama's presidency, there is an inherent element of hope surrounding his election."
However, not everyone was as impressed.
"I don't really think it is that outstanding of a thing," said Galway Central Junior Mike Pelzer.
Warrensburg Central Social Studies Teacher Io Bruce said that some of her students may miss the point because of the demographics of where they live and their lack of first-hand experience of racial inequality.
"That is why the Junior Statesmen program is so important," Bruce said. "It exposes these kids to political issues which they otherwise may have not been privy too."
At Warrensburg Elementary, fourth grader Gennie Zwart couldn't take her eyes off the blurry, black-and-white images of the inauguration on the 19-inch screen she and her classmates watched for hours.
"This is pretty exciting because this is the first black president ever for the U.S.," she said. "I think it's really nice that we are living history right now."
Journal Editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.