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Many college-age voters caught up in the presidential campaign last year saw the culmination today, at least in part, of their efforts as the watched the inauguration. One of the largest gatherings was at the University of Utah.
The crowd of students was on its feet after Obama took the oath, and several times during his speech. Hope, personal responsibility, change and the president's words to governments willing to unclench their fists were themes that continually triggered applause.
For Vanessa Hyde and Josh Burns, the experience was unlike any other. "I was just blown away. It's amazing to see the difference, even in eight years, of how we've changed as a nation," Hyde said.
Burns told us, "He motivated me a lot, made me proud of my country."
Some, like Jennifer Taber, said not since JFK have words moved her in this way. "Try to give more and try to think about the world as a whole and not just about one's self. I felt a sense of elevation about the whole thing," she said.
From his wheelchair, Stan Clawson says he felt a strong sense of unity. "A real profound sense of hope, and I think a lot of people believe it and have this overwhelming sense that things are going to get better," he said.
But "getting better" is a matter of perspective. Though all applauded, some were not quite as enthusiastic. "I didn't vote for him, but I like Obama. He's really smart. I just hope he can do all the things that he said," Jared Mortenson told us.
Then there was student Dominika Mazui, visiting from Poland. "I was listening carefully to what he had to say, and we'll see what's going to happen," she said.
After all, after the celebrations end tonight, that's what it's all about: to see this new president in action, what he really can do.