Newton native Sheryl McCandless campaigned for Barack Obama. When the time came for him to be inaugurated the 44th president of the United States, she knew she had to be there.


Newton native Sheryl McCandless campaigned for Barack Obama.

When the time came for him to be inaugurated the 44th president of the United States, she knew she had to be there.

McCandless lives in Billings, Mont., but grew up in Newton and graduated from Newton High School in 1974.

Her parents, Dick and Margie McGlachin, and sister, Lori Jolliff, still live in Newton.

McCandless spent three days in Washington, D.C., She attended the “We Are One” concert at the Lincoln Memorial. However, she said she wasn’t able to get close to the stage because of the throng of people.

She and a friend received tickets from a Montana congressman and watched the inauguration from the Capitol lawn.

However, they were so far away from the Capitol, most of their glimpses of the action came from Jumbotrons positioned above the crowd.

“It was a wonderful experience. You could feel the excitement and electricity in the air,” she said.

Although she was raised in Republican country, she eventually decided the Democratic ideology best fit with her political beliefs.

This was the first time McCandless, a 52-year-old physical therapist, said she had volunteered for a presidential candidate.

“He seems like a very intelligent and thoughtful man,” she said. “He is a national leader who calls people to action.”

During the campaign, Obama made a campaign stop in Billings. McCandless heard Obama speak and got him to autograph a copy of his book, “Dreams of My Father.”

“When he speaks, he engages you,” McCandless said. “It gets you excited.”

That excitement was all the more palpable when Obama took the oath of office as the nation’s first black president, she said.

An estimated 2 million people packed D.C. to watch the historic moment. And McCandless, who is from a state with a population of less than 1 million people, said she was overwhelmed by the multitude of people and frenzy and excitement of the day.

“I don’t how to describe it. It was like an outer-body experience,” McCandless said.

Although some inauguration-goers complained about difficulties getting to their viewing areas, McCandless said there was a sense of unity and togetherness in the air.

“I felt like the racial divide was gone,” she said.

In addition to Americans of all races and creeds, the event also was attended by citizens from around the world, including travelers from Canada and Columbia, McCandless met.

McCandless said the only negative of the day was trying to make her way out of the capitol mall after the inauguration.

“It was a traffic jam of humans,” she said. “The crowd moved you. You didn’t have control over where you were going, and that was a little bit scary.”

Obama faces many challenges, but McCandless said she is optimistic the new president will bring the country through.

“My biggest hope is he will bring people together,” she said, “that there won’t be partisanship, and everyone will work together to solve the problems we may have.”