Posted tagged ‘Elon’

Elon and Burlington residents expect Obama to discuss economy in Inaugural Address

December 11, 2008

Miriam Williamson

Courtesy of Governing.com

Courtesy of Governing.com

At 8 a.m. on a rainy first day of exams, President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural address was the last thing on Elon students’ minds. Instead, they were either sleeping, studying or starting exams.

Some simply had no opinion, others were “too busy to care right now” and there was even the embarrassingly uninformed response of, “Oh, I didn’t watch it yet.”

But outside of the bubble, Elon and Burlington residents are well-aware of what an important part of history is in the making. The words economy, turmoil, mess and help all seemed to be top words on everyone’s mind.

Residents express concern for economy

“I think it’ll be a big event,” said Glen Rudd, a retired Burlington resident. “I hope he’ll get across the points that he had in his campaign. The economy is the main thing … and Iraq. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can do what he said he can do. I didn’t vote for him but I’m behind him.”

Other residents shared a similar concern for the economy.

“Obviously he needs to talk about the economy,” said Kim Debrito, a Burlington resident and mom of two. “Just here locally people are losing their jobs left and right … so job loss and what he’s going to do to turn it around.”

Even residents who did not support Obama are eager to see what he will do to improve the economy.

“I hope he gives ideas to help the economy,” said Pat Christie, an Elon resident. “It can’t get much worse.”

“In general the economy and specifically the automotive bailout need to be addressed,” said William Barham, a 1960 Elon alumnus.

Junior Sammi Miller expressed concern for the individual industries being affected by the current economic situation as well.

“I think it’s important to work on the auto industry because that’s a mess,” Miller said. “I think also he should say something about the tribune company and that our print media is really having an issue right now keeping afloat, and that’s the biggest source for in-depth news.”

Aside from the economy, residents expressed concern for every aspect of Obama’s plans to help the country, from medicare to education.

“I want to see what’s going to happen,” said Robby Wheatly, an Insurance Adjustor in Burlington. “I don’t know if there’s anything specific he should address; there are just so many problems. He’s not going to be able to address it all in one speech. The bailout and his new medicare system are probably the most important topics I can think of.”

Elon senior Leah McLeod couldn’t pinpoint a single idea she wants Obama to discuss, but she wants him to show concern for those who have supported him.

“Already a lot of people have given him a hard time and we’re not seeing a change,” McLeod said. “I’m pretty liberal and it seems like right now conservatives are thinking he’s doing an OK job so I think he needs to make some liberals happy. Just as far as  a very specific plan goes to bring change to America.”

Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, which will take place on Jan. 20, 2009, will have the theme of “A New Birth of Freedom,” according to Ian Bauder with The Washington Times.

Elon experiences the inauguration

The junior class of Elon teaching fellows will have the unique opportunity to be in Washington, D.C., to experience the event first-hand in January.

Janice Richardson, Associate Professor at Elon and Director of N.C. Teaching Fellows Program, said this will be a moment they will all remember for the rest of their lives.

“They will be there in the midst of everything, all the emotions,” Richardson said. “That’s something they will be able to tell their grandchildren. This is such a historical event, and being there in the moment is so exciting.”

Like everyone else, Richardson expressed concern for the economy. But her biggest concern was the future her students will be highly involved in.

“I hope he addresses the future of education,” Richardson said. “I think that is something the students will also be concerned about and want to hear.

As Obama begins his term, his inaugural speech will be an important way to set the tone for his presidency. People are primarily concerned about the future of the economy and want to hear what Obama plans to do to fix it.

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Twitter falls short of high potential

November 22, 2008

Twitter falls short, with too much of a good thing. Too much information all floods to the same place, leaving users overwhelmed.

Courtesy of Twitter.com

Courtesy of Twitter.com

Twittering and Tweeting? It sounds like nothing but a child’s game. But recently it has become the new fad to hit the media and online gurus.

Twitter has the problem that is commonly seen in society: It has too much of a good thing.

By setting up a Twitter account, users are inviting unending streams of information, both pointless and meaningful, to overflow their computers and minds. This would seem like a great idea, but Twitter falls short of having a highly beneficial purpose by giving too much.

The idea of using Twitter to stay up-to-date on current news stories is great. Receiving short bursts of information about breaking news without going through the trouble of looking it up for themselves is ideal for Americans. After getting the brief synopsis, users can decide if it is worth the extra time to read the entire story or research the topic.

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitters is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet. “Compressed information fits and it offers quick-hitting details we can apply to our lives. Most of the early adopters using Twitter to communicate today are writing on the road, from conferences, sales calls and other mobile stations in which they want to share tightly written information chunks.”

But how is this any different from scanning headlines on a news Web site?

The main difference seems to be that on Twitter, users not only get these bursts of news filling their screens, but there are personal updates from the users they are following. These can range from someone’s opinion about news to what someone ate for lunch.

This can be useful in its own way, as people catch up and learn what their friends, or even strangers, have been up to, but it seems to take the personal parts of friendship away.

Instead of personally conversing with their friends, people can just check updates and feel like they are connected. They know some of the tiniest details of others’ lives, and can get updates on the bigger parts.

“The positive is that it’s an easy and quick way to connect with people, however loosely,” said Colin Donohue, coordinator of student media and instructor in communications at Elon University.

When people do have “conversations,” they are publicized and actually a nuisance to their other friends. Even if someone sends a direct message, it shows up on everyone else’s homepage. This leaves the users who are part of the conversation in an awkward spotlight, and the users who are not part of the conversation annoyed and confused by their homepage filling up with one side of a conversation.

That is assuming these people can find their friends at all.

A major shortcoming of Twitter is the poor search tools.

Glyn Vandenberg, a junior at Denver University, set up a Twitter account nearly four months ago but has yet to get involved.

“It’s a little lacking,” Vandenberg said. “I don’t use it because I can’t figure out how to get friends without already knowing their e-mails or what-not.”

Twitter has the potential to serve as a very useful tool, for news gathering or connecting people, but as of now, the two combined together leaves an uncomfortable, overwhelming influx of information.

“Twitter is a hindrance to effective communication and storytelling,” Donohue said.

With a few adjustments, such as allowing for private conversations, separating friends’ updates from news updates and creating easier access to find people, Twitter could be an even bigger success

Barack Obama wins election, Elon students celebrate

November 5, 2008

By Miriam Williamson

Elon students join the parade to celebrate Obama's victory.

Elon students join the parade to celebrate Obama

As Barack Obama claimed victory, hundreds of Elon students opted to skip his acceptance speech and instead rallied to show their excitement and pride. The group started small, but as it marched through campus more and more students joined despite the rain.

The crowd grew to hundreds of students and could be heard chanting “Obama,” “Yes, we can,” and “Yes, we did,” from the opposite side of campus.

dsc_1266c“I was walking out to go to Varsity and I heard a commotion in the distance,” freshman Adam Lawson said. “I decided to go see what it was all about and I decided to join up.

The group culminated in a giant circle at Young Commons, joined hands and sang the national anthem. Afterward, everyone rushed to the center.

At the innermost circle of the mob, one student encouraged everyone, regardless of religion or beliefs, to say “The Lord’s Prayer” together. The hundreds of students’ voices could be heard echoing across campus in unison.

“It was like nothing I’d ever seen before,” Lawson said.

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Video by Derek Noble

Election day runs smoothly at Alamance precincts

November 5, 2008

With 37 precincts in the county, finding appropriate locations for voters is a concern. Usually though, the relationship between the location and voting officials is amicable.

Students learn about elections firsthand Smith Elementary School

According to Rebecca McGinnis, the curriculum facilitator for Smith Elementary School, the voting didn’t interrupt the usual school day.

“All we really had to do was adjust some of our specialty classes like P.E. and monitor the halls,” McGinnis said. “Other than that though, the kids weren’t affected.”

“But they were well-aware there was going to be an election,” she said. “They knew their behavior was going to be important and they were on their best behavior.”

While Julie Payne, an exceptional children support educator, agreed that things ran very smoothly, she voiced concern for the children’s safety.

“I think it puts the school at a liability,” she said. “Even though it’s a public building, with students and voters coming and going there is a large liability. And it’s a safety issue for voters and students.”

With unfamiliar faces around the school Payne said she thinks it would have been better if the students hadn’t been at school. But since it was unavoidable, the school made as many efforts as possible to maintain high safety standards.

There were extra walkie-talkies in case there was a safety issue. The administration was also moving around the hallways more than usual, with extra people monitoring the hallways and foyers where the voters were waiting.

Even though safety was a concern, Payne said she and the students were glad the school was a voting location.

“They were all very excited about being part of the election,” she said. “It was great for our kids to see it happening. It is history in the making.”

She said that teachers and students will follow up on the election in the morning, looking at newspapers and holding discussions.

Chief Judge at Smith, Gladys Hill, said the school was very helpful to election officials.

“This school has been good,” Hill said. “They’ve done everything they can and tried to make it safe.”

She said they kept the children out of the hallway where the voting was as much as possible, and in turn, whenever there was a line of voters, the election officials ensured that the line went outside rather than into the school’s halls.

Church members share space with Nov. 4 voters

At Holly Hill Baptist, the line was only long in the morning, so it was not much of an inconvenience for the members or employees of the church.

“We do it for every election,” said Shaun Greeson, worship and discipleship pastor for Holly Hill Baptist Church. “It’s not affected us that much. They lined up down the hall one time earlier but it hasn’t affected us otherwise. We just used the back door.”

According to the election officials, the church was very conducive to voting.

“They just pretty much gave us the run of the mill,” said Anne Fortney, an election official.

She said the church is a good location for handicapped voting. Fortney is in charge of curbside voting, which is used to help disabled voters.

Someone who drives the voter can go inside the voting area and get a form for the voter. Then, an election official takes the form to the car and assists the voter.

Democracy heats up at Elon Firehouse

Another precinct was set up in the basement of the Elon Fire House. It in no way hindered the ability of the firefighters to do their job.

“We had to put up tables and they used some of our chairs,” said Billy Andrews, an engineer. “We had to cone off in front of the trucks. If they park in front of them, we’ll just have them towed.”

Other than helping set up, Andrews said the regular routine at fire station was not interrupted. Rather than walking through the station, voters walked outside around to the back entrance.

Dee Atkinson, the chief judge at the firehouse, said the fire fighters were very helpful in setting up the voting area.

“First of all, they worked out their schedule to meet our voting schedule,” Atkinson said. “They provided a clean building and assisted in setting up to accommodate the voting procedure. They also allowed for signs to be posted on department property and moved their trucks to allow more room for parking.

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The end of the Ron Paul R[evol]ution

October 27, 2008

Miriam Williamson

Ron Paul ran for the Republican Party nomination but did not win. He will not be running on a third party ticket.

Ron Paul ran for the Republican Party nomination but did not win. He will not be running on a third party ticket.

When Ron Paul’s name showed up on the list of potential Republican nominees, grassroots efforts sprung up across the nation supporting the Republican Congressman from Texas and his Revolution campaign.

Some of these supporters had been long-term fans of Paul. Others were intrigued by his ideas and platforms.

“He was running on the ticket before I even knew who he was,” said junior Vince Barrett, one of Elon’s Ron Paul supporters. “I guess I kind of got suckered in by the YouTube videos, and I just had immediate interest. I started reading a lot and got really into it.”

Although he was running for the Republican nomination, Paul does not have the same ideas and policies as many of the Republicans in today’s society. Instead, Paul claims to follow the fundamental Republican ideals that go back to the founding of the party.

“I consider myself a Republican,” Barrett said, “but I don’t want to associate with the current administration. The Republican party doesn’t follow the principles they preach.”

Paul is well-known for is his advocacy for limited federal government control. He backs these ideals with his freedom principles, which support the rights of individuals.

Paul’s name on the ballot would have meant a group of grassroots voters confident in their choice.

“He’s the only person I could trust to vote for,” Barrett said. “He says the same thing no matter where he goes. I’m not going to vote for Obama or McCain because they demonstrate a complete lack of understanding for the issues we face.”

Paul’s consistency is a strong factor in many of his supporters’ faith in him.

“I read his articles and saw how consistent he was, even when it wasn’t popular,” said Cameron DeJong, an Elon alum who has run as a Libertarian for county commissioner in eastern N.C. and a Paul supporter since 1996. “ He is truly devoted and much of what he said then and just during the presidential campaign is showing true. He has stuck to his principles, regardless of popularity, and that is to be commended.”

His differences from other Republicans have deemed him a third-party candidate, but Paul refused to run in the 2008 election as a third-party candidate.

“Ron Paul said that if he didn’t win the primary, he wasn’t going to run anymore, so I saw it coming,” Barrett said. “Of course it was disappointing, but I was following it very closely so I knew the indications.”

In February, Paul focused his efforts on his campaign to remain in Congress.

While a third-party candidate winning a U.S. presidential election anytime soon seems unlikely, it may be possible with the proper funding, according to DeJong.

“A third-party candidate who is independently wealthy stands a good chance,” DeJong said. “Otherwise, it would take a celebrity – who in most cases has wealth built in – to become elected.”

Since voters will not see his name on the ticket, Paul supporters may have a tougher time choosing. Many do not trust the current most popular third-party candidate, Bob Barr, especially since it is unlikely for a third-party candidate to win the election. Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party has a strong chance, since Paul has endorsed him.

“Most Ron Paul supporters will either vote for Baldwin, Barr or they won’t vote at all,” said DeJong. “Some of those who may not vote will write in Ron Paul’s name.”

Barrett will be writing in a candidate, but it will not be his original favored candidate.

“I’m actually voting for Hunter Bacot,” Barrett said. “He asked for my vote, and I’m giving it to him. I just figured it’d be kind of funny to vote for him.”

Barrett said that although he will not be casting a serious vote for president, he will be supporting Paul’s ideals by voting for libertarians on the rest of the ballot.

Iraqi journalist and sculptor shares insights on Iraqi-American relations

October 24, 2008
Ahmed Abdullah Fadaam speaks to an Elon reporting class about his experiences as an Iraqi journalist during the war.

Ahmed Abdullah Fadaam speaks to an Elon reporting class about his experiences as an Iraqi journalist during the war.

Miriam Williamson

The relationship between Iraqis and Americans has been seriously damaged. Unless the two cultures can develop an understanding of each other, it will likely be impossible to mend.

“If you don’t understand how they think, how can you deal with them?” Iraqi journalist Ahmed Abdullah Fadaam asked a class of student journalists Wednesday.

Fadaam has a rare advantage few have. He has had the opportunity to view the war from both angles and see the feelings and opinions of people from both societies.

Changing art forms

Before the war, Fadaam was a sculptor. He had a Ph. D. in fine arts, and was a professor of arts at the University of Baghdad.

“Art was my life at the time,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine myself as a man who would chase stories and be involved in policy and war.”

But once the war started, he became a translator for a documentary news program that aired on NPR stations across the US. This eventually led to a job as a reporter for different American media.

“We began to be looked at as spies, as blood traders, as traitors,” Fadaam said of himself and other journalists.

Iraqis called those who associated with the Western press blood traders because they got money from stories, and stories from death. But Fadaam saw his work as a favor to his country.

“If you like your country, you want people to know the facts,” he said.

Regardless of the challenges he faced as a reporter, Fadaam has been a successful journalist. He worked for news organizations such as Agence France-Presse, National Public Radio, American Public Media and The New York Times, and received numerous prestigious awards, particularly for his series of personal anecdotes, “Ahmed’s Diary.”

“I don’t know if it’s growing up in Iraq,” he said of what makes his writing powerful. “What makes a good journalist is pure curiousity.”

Fadaam contributes much of his talent to his other craft, sculpting. For him, the relationship between the two is in the details.

“The more you work, the more details you get,” he said. “Clay is like a disease… and journalism is the same. Once you get it you won’t be getting rid of it for a long time.”

Facing the consequences of war

As conditions worsened in Iraq, the situation became dangerous for Fadaam, his wife and his two children.

After receiving a death threat in Dec. 2007 for his work as a reporter, Fadaam decided to move his family to Syria. He also received a visitor’s visa to the U.S. where he can safely practice journalism.

Meanwhile, he is sharing stories from Iraq with Americans.

“They’re [the Western media] not showing the other side of this society [Iraq],” Fadaam said. “That they’re capable of building something. Not just destroying.”

While here, he has had the chance to learn more about Americans’ viewpoints of Iraq, the war and the U.S. administration.

“I used to tell stories from Iraq to the Americans,” he said. “Now I’m going to tell stories to the Iraqis about what I saw in America.”

Connecting Cultures

Fadaam’s efforts to share both sides of the story is intended to establish friendly relations between the U.S. and Iraq.

Iraqis have seen much loss and bloodshed in their country since the beginning of the U.S. occupation. Young children are taught that this is caused by Americans, so hatred is bred from a young age.

“You have children now that open their eyes and see their country is under fire,” he said.

Among most Iraqis, it is common belief that all Americans are aggressive, are violent and like war, because the troops are all they see. But Fadaam has seen that this is not true, and said he thinks Americans should reach out to the Iraqis.

“The problem is there is no direct contact between people,” he said. “Try talking to each other away from government, away from policy, away from war. Just people to people. You’re open-minded; so are Iraqis.”

But Fadaam said talking is not enough. He pointed out that few Americans know much about the Iraqi culture.

“I’m not trying to underestimate your knowledge,” he said. “But this is the truth.”

With Iraq in shambles, there is still work the U.S. administration needs to do before anything can truly be healed.

“You have started something, and you should finish it,” he said. “At the same time, you have broken something and you should fix it.”

The main thing average Americans can do to mend the relationship between the two countries is learn about Iraq – its people, their culture, their history.

“Break these walls between you,” he said.

Vendors follow the 2008 presidential campaign making money along the way

October 17, 2008

Cashing in on the campaign

Miriam Williamson

Everyone has seen them. Some people are annoyed by them, some people are appreciative of what they have to offer. They are the vendors selling paraphernalia at large events.

In this case, they are the vendors at political rallies. They are the ones who call out to rally-goers, trying to sell buttons and T-shirts.

The lifestyle is unlike anything someone with a stereotypical source of income could imagine.

Phil Phunn has been selling campaign paraphernalia for every election since 1996.

Phil Phunn has been selling campaign paraphernalia for every election since 1996.

“We have put more than 10,000 miles on the van in the past two weeks,” said Chris Foran, a vendor from Florida who works for Campaign Curt.

Foran and his partner Phil Phunn have been following Sarah Palin’s campaign since August. They have driven through nearly every state, stopping in various cities where political rallies and events are held.

The McCain-Palin campaign is not Phunn’s or Foran’s sole source of income though. They go to events for both political parties selling memorabilia to supporters from both sides.

“I’m actually undecided for which one I’m voting for,” Phunn said. “I really don’t know. It’s the first time in my life I haven’t known who I am voting for this close to election day.”

Phunn has been working as a campaign paraphernalia vendor since 1996, following different campaigns. For this presidential race, before the democratic convention, Phunn followed Hillary Clinton exclusively, but once Barack Obama was chosen as the candidate, he was left unsure.

“Everyone wants to talk to me about politics,” he said. “But I really walk the middle aisle. I sell stuff for both campaigns, so that’s just more incentive not to really openly choose a side.”

This is a common quality among these vendors – just because they are selling the goods, that doesn’t mean they support it.

Morgan Sheets, a 25-year-old from Indianapolis, who works for Shop Political, has been to numerous rallies for both political parties during the past two months.

“This is an important election,” Sheets said. “It’s great seeing the rallies for both sides. And I get to talk to a lot of people who support both sides.”

Corinne Swazey and Barbara Baker buy their paraphernalia to support Sarah Palin from the vendors at the event.

Corinne Swazey and Barbara Baker, two women from Cary, N.C., who volunteer at the election polls, said they came to the rally to support Sarah Palin because they believe she and John McCain are the best choice to lead America.

“I bought all of this stuff here to support them,” Swazey said.

“We will wear it until we go to work at the polls,” Baker said. “But we aren’t allowed to wear it while we’re working there.”

Josh Reyes, a vendor from California, is actually strongly opposed to the McCain-Palin campaign.

“I support Obama,” he said. “There’s obviously two different diversities in the people in this race, but you know what? The enthusiasm, the drive… Obama has it. I hope he wins.”

Reyes got into selling campaign paraphernalia through a random connection.

“I hooked up with my boss and we sell stuff for both parties,” he said. “I’m really just doing this to get money.”

Phunn agrees that the job has nothing to do with supporting a specific candidate.

“It is a job,” Phunn said. “Everybody’s doing it for the money. Anyone who tells you different is lying.”

Phunn and his company don’t give any of their profit to specific candidates. Instead, they donate money to both the RNC and DNC so that they will be allowed to go to the events.

According to Reyes, business is booming. He and his boss get 50 percent of the cut while the other 50 percent goes to the campaign.

“You can literally make about 1,000 T-shirts for $200,” he said. “It’s a great profit.”

Reyes sells his T-shirts for $20, and said that he usually has days like the one he had at Elon – he can sell about 40 shirts.

Towards the end of the rally though, Reyes lowers his price to $10, and has a strategy that he claims works.

“Once I started pouting, asking people to help me out…” he said, “…it really f’in works.”

With one of the most popular tents at the event, Phil Phunn says his visit to Elon was a good one financially.

Phunn agreed that his day at Elon was a good day for business.

“And hey, I got to see Hank Williams Jr.,” he said of the day’s rally. “I get to meet a lot of interesting people who want to chat.”

He has had the opportunity to meet and take pictures with many high-profile characters, including Hillary Clinton, during his time following campaigns. According to Phunn, the primaries are actually the best time to meet people, and the Democratic party’s candidates are often more friendly.

“The Republicans are a little shyer,” he said.

Phunn and Foran are one of seven different crews working wtih Campaign Curt.

“He tries to keep us all spread apart so we don’t have competition against each other,” Foran said.

As for the competition among individual vendors, most agree that it is a friendly relationship.

“Even the competition outside of our company,” Sheets said, “we’re all social… well, civil. But on the team, we’re really close.”

While traveling to different states and cities is exciting, Phunn said that life following the campaign can be trying, especially with a 4-year-old daughter at home. It is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting.

As soon as they could pack up their van, Phunn and Foran were planning to drive the nine-hour trip to Cincinnati through the night, without even taking the time to stop for showers or sleep.