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Chicago Celebrates Inauguration of President Barack Obama


Even though he was born in Hawaii and raised in Indonesia, President Barack Obama spent a large part of his life working on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois as a community organizer and university professor.

As their former U.S. senator, Barack Obama, rises this week to the presidency, the city and neighborhood he calls home celebrates the historic moment. And as they celebrate, they hope that Obama's Presidency will raise their city's profile on the global stage.

Obama brings pride to the people Chicago

Perhaps nowhere are people walking taller and prouder than in Hyde Park, the South Side Chicago neighborhood where the new president and his family call home.

It's also home to Zariff, a barber at the Hyde Park Hair Salon. "Hyde Park is overwhelmed," he said. "He's [Obama] a regular guy. He used to walk down the street. You used to see him in the store there. See him at the gas station. See him just about everywhere."

When then-Senator Barack Obama won the presidential election on November 4, he made his acceptance speech a Chicago event at the city's scenic lakefront. Hundreds of thousands of residents flocked to witness his acceptance speech at Grant Park.

Chicago is excited and alive

Meghan Risch, who works for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, says that moment was the beginning of a wave of excitement that still runs through the city.

"It's probably the best time to live in Chicago in recent memory. The city is just alive with excitement. People are walking a little taller, a little prouder," she said.

The barber, Zariff is now a celebrity, thrown into the international spotlight as the global media descended on his small shop after learning he is the one who cut then-Senator Barack Obama's hair.

Zariff stated, "The attention has been overwhelming, and that's from a good perspective. I mean people from all over the world come through. We've been seeing them come from China, Russia, Japan, Finland, Germany, you name it they have been in here and I have talked to so many. Very appreciate of that too."

A citizen speaks of unity

Raphael Morris also gets his hair cut at the Hyde Park Hair Salon. He's from the South Side of Chicago, and works as a limousine driver.

In the past, he's played basketball with President Obama, and says it is important to people here on the south side, in fact, to everybody here, to know the president is one of them.

Morris said proudly, "Whether it's from the south side, west side, east side, south suburbs. Just to be from a part of Chicago and just to be able to live here and just to know that he's a person that's from here, and now he's in the White House, is a big thing for everybody."

Chicago hopes to host Olympics

The city of Chicago is competing to win a bid to host the 2016 Olympic games. It is one of three candidate cities.

With all the recent attention during the campaign and election, many here hope that having the new president in the White House will help the city realize its goal.

But whether or not Chicago wins the Olympic bid won't change what President Obama's inauguration means for people like Zariff. He said in disbelief, "I also am not only witnessing history, I also had a hand in it because I am his barber, and that is something that I am still grasping."

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