Rev. Joseph Garner, pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Leesville, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the second inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States.
"This was my second inauguration. I went to President Obama's first inauguration in 2009," said Garner. "I had to go back again, I wanted to be a part of history."
President Obama's first inauguration was Jan. 20, 2009. "A New Birth of Freedom" was the theme to celebrate the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln.
The president traveled to Washington, D.C. on a train from Philadelphia for his first inauguration, which marked the largest attendance of any event in the history of the city.
The second inauguration was on Jan. 21, 2013, with the theme, "Faith in America's Future."
Garner was just one of about a million people who journeyed to the Capitol to witness the event.
"The inauguration crowd was huge," said Garner. "I had to travel from the hotel on an underground train to get to the location.
"This is not for the faint of heart, you had to really want to be there with the crowds, barricades, and streets blocked off. It was hectic but wonderful," said Garner.
Jan. 21 was also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday since 1986.
King was a minister and civil rights activist who led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, led many non-violent marches and protests, and gave the well-known "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963.
King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, and was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.
Garner is president of the Vernon Parish King Day Coalition.
"I visited the new Dr. King Memorial for the first time," said Garner. "It was an inspiring, breathtaking experience."
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened in 2011, and is located at 1964 Independence Ave, with 1964 being the year the Civil Rights Act became law.
"What I have learned about Dr. King has inspired me in so many ways," said Garner, "to become a minister and a civic leader.
"The connection between the inauguration falling on the day we celebrate his birthday, Jan. 21, was another reason I had to be a part of it," Garner said. "Barack Obama is the first African American president, and the work Dr. King did paved the way."
Garner spoke of the inspiration he receives from the "I Have a Dream" speech.
"President Obama's election and reelection embodies Dr. King's speech. His inaugurations speak volumes as to how far we have come as a people in this nation," said Garner. "It also speaks to the generosity of this nation, and why this is the greatest nation on earth."
Page 2 of 2 - Pastor Garner attended the Young and Powerful Black Tie Ball at the Mansion on O Street. He received an invitation through contacts at his alma mater, Southern University.
"Our nation affords all people opportunities if they are willing to work," said Garner. "There is nothing we cannot do if we are willing to work and sacrifice."
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, the first African American church in Leesville, was dedicated on Sept. 1, 1899.
Rev. Garner has served as pastor since 1992.
Garner, a 1983 graduate of Leesville High School, received a B.S. degree in economics from Southern University in Baton Rouge.