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President Obama impresses
Republican-dominated coffee group likes what they heard
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The Freedom Coffee in the Food 4 Less shopping center saw an interesting discussion of reactions to the Obama Inaugural Tuesday morning. The group included Gabriel Sandoval, Doyle Owens, Vern Gebhardt, Troy Barker and Dan Laurenti. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Forget political pundits, the folks who really count are the ones who gather for the daily ritual of sharing cups of brew and solving the world’s problems.

And as far as at least one such group in Manteca is concerned, President Barack Obama has “energized the youth of America” and “brought people together.”

That was the collective reaction to the Obama presidential inaugural Tuesday morning at Freedom Coffee on East Yosemite Avenue in the Food 4 Less Shopping Center where a registered Democrat was as scarce as instant coffee.

Freedom Coffee is a favorite watering hole for a morning java and give-and-take chats among friends that always include at least a couple of retired educators. All but one in the group were Republicans.

Manteca school board member Vern Gebhardt was there along with retired East Union High School teachers Dan Laurenti along with Ripon resident Amen Sulaiman, a Palestinian who emigrated from Kuwait in the late ‘80s.

Representing her mortgage business was Gabriel Sandoval along with retired Sharpe Depot computer tech  Doyle Owens and retired electrician Troy Barker.  

They were all impressed with the unity that has been brought together with the new administration — voicing hope that it will produce positive change.

Dan Laurenti said he feels the outcome of the election has changed the view of the U.S. by other countries.  He said he feels the biggest worry today in this country is the economy.  He said the administration needs to do something to move the economy such as the Work Project Administration of the ‘30s to put people back to work.

While sipping his coffee and getting involved in the conversation Sulaiman received a phone call from his son, Abdullah, who was on the mall in Washington, D.C., for the historic event with a group of fellow students from Colony Oak School in Ripon.  He wanted to tell his dad he was OK and that he was in the middle of a huge crowd and could only see the ceremonies from far away.

“It was pretty cool his son, he said.  “So many people; you really couldn’t move.”

Sulaiman said he sent his son to Washington because he wanted him to get a feel for the essence of what is going on in the country.  

Brought his son to America to be free
“I brought him here to be free — in that way handing him the torch of liberty,” he said.  “He will connect the dots when he is older and sees the importance in all this.”

 He said the last eight years have been difficult for him being stopped many times in the airports where he is always suspect and searched, saying he feels Obama will put the country on a better path into the 21st century.

Sulaiman said he saw the Bush presidency as a dictatorship with the U.S. Constitution on hold during that time.

“I am truly optimistic about the future of this country,” he said.  The self-employed Ripon resident said he, his friends and his family fell in love with America through watching TV shows like, “Little House on the Prairie.”

Sulaiman said every day is a journey,  adding that he sees the American sprit alive and well when coming to coffee first thing every morning with his Manteca friends like Laurenti, Owens and Gebhardt.

He said that a friend of his from Los Angeles came to visit and joined him at coffee — seeing the way they interact.  “I love the way you sit down and talk and pick on each other.  I want to move to Manteca,” he quoted his long-time friend as saying.  

“I hope he (Obama) will succeed,” Gebhardt said.  “I think it is a great thing for a black man becoming president —the U.S. is watching and the whole world is watching.”

Others agreed that it is energizing the world and as the U.S. succeeds the rest of the world will follow.  “What happens here, happens all over the world,” Doyle Owens said.

Laurenti noted he had not watched the inaugural on TV because he intended to see all the news channels at night to catch the important segments and to hear the commentaries on the day — getting more of the highlights.

“I feel guilty not home watching it — it’s an historical day,” he said.  “We have a great mountain to climb.”  He added that he has been glued to his television throughout the entire campaign.

“I think it’s going to take some time to bring the economy back,” Laurenti said.  “He’s very good at using the word ‘WE’ instead of I or me,” he added.  He’s putting an excitement into  the world — it’s also like the analogy of  coach Gebhardt who once said when you surround yourself with good people you will be successful.

Gebhardt said he recognized much of the problem today as a “vicious circle” in spending money.  Tongue in cheek,  he chuckled that his wife “did her part to revive the economy this year” with a remodel of their whole house.

“I will continue to purchase things in Manteca and in the state of California,” he said, further noting it is a very important factor in keeping people employed and in keeping the economy going.

Watching  history in the making
Gabriel Sandoval said she kept her two children, Mariana, 10, and Presley, 8, home from their classes at Manteca Christian to watch the inauguration.  She said she had called school and was told they were watching the event there as well — so she felt they weren’t missing anything.

Her children saw history in the making with their mom and someday will be telling their children that their mother had them stay home and watch TV as the first black president of the United States being inaugurated.

“No matter what side of the fence you were on it is an historical event,” she said.  “The fact is this person is bringing people together.”

Sandoval said she was impressed by part of his speech saying that 60 years ago he would not have been served lunch in Washington but today he stands before the country as its incoming president.

She also recalled the recent concert in Washington where there were crowds of different nationalities, noting there were not blocks of blacks seen through the TV cameras but people of all races mixed equally.

“If you stop and think about it, it’s one person we are thinking about — realistically it’s a group of people — it takes a long time coming -- one person can’t come in and change all the rules  — but it’s the fact that it can energize the entire country, she pointed out.

Speaking on the “voters” choice of a black man  in the White House, Doyle Owens opined that “just because your parents were against blacks, you can’t carry that on,” — acknowledging that the country finally elected a black president.
Laurenti said he remembers Martin Luther King saying there would be a black president in 40 years — he missed it by five.