As several hundred Normal Park Museum Magnet students cheered and waved flags Tuesday to celebrate President Barack Obama's message of change, adults in the crowd hoped the children realized they were it.
"We're probably right now looking at some of the next Barack Obamas of the world," Warren Logan, president of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, told fifth- through eighth-graders at the Normal Park Upper School's auditorium for a roundtable discussion before the inauguration.
"Change can be about you," he said.
In addition to Mr. Logan, the discussion panel featured state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, as well as Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and Chattanooga City Council Chairwoman Linda Bennett.
The speakers shared their memories of less-tolerant times and described the historical significance of the day, which was not lost on the students.
"I think this is pretty special," said 10-year-old Taz Robinson, a fifth-grader.
Classmate Mike Genovesi, also 10, agreed.
"If we ever have kids, we can tell our kids that on January 20, 2009, this is where we were," he said excitedly. "And they'll be like, 'Wow! You actually got to see that?'"
A number of parents and third- and fourth-grade students from the Lower School campus arrived in time to watch the inauguration ceremony projected on a huge screen. Dressed in red, white and blue, they showed enthusiasm along with the audience they were watching on television.
Meanwhile, a life-sized cardboard cutout of President Obama stood by, propped onstage behind a podium decorated with the presidential seal.
Beverly Hammond of Hixson said she hoped the decorations and celebratory spirit in the auditorium would help make the day more real for her 9-year-old son Kendal, who had walked over from the Lower campus.
"We've got him so excited about it, I don't think he really understands it," she said. "But doing all of this, he will be able to look back when he's older and see the bigger picture."
Elementary teacher Lisa Hope watched with a smile, explaining that the children's preparation for and involvement in the festivities was inspiring.
"They feel like they're a part of it, and that's a wonderful thing," she said.