Las Vegas Sun

April 25, 2014

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The inauguration:

To Vegas family, trip to D.C. is lesson for kids on their potential

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LISA MASCARO / LAS VEGAS SUN

From left to right, Jonas Clairborne, Denise Clairborne, Berna Rhodes-Ford and Aaron Ford of Las Vegas. The Claibornes are Aaron Ford’s parents. The Fords have four children. Berna is hopeful President-Elect Barack Obama’s message will be one that speaks to her children. “It’s all of our history, but they’re going to live it a lot longer,” she said.

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From left, the Ford children: Alexander, 3; Aaron II, 8; Devin, 11; and Avery, 15. "I didn't think we'd make it this far," Avery said on the eve of Obama's inauguration. "I'm just hoping he'll do a good job and he'll have support."

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Las Vegas attorneys Aaron D. Ford and Berna Rhodes-Ford taught their boys they could be anything they wanted. But the kids were skeptical.

At 15, Avery, the oldest child, didn’t believe the country was ready to elect a black president. Eight-year-old Aaron II, who dreams of being a paleontologist, was cautiously optimistic.

Now, on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, the boys are beginning to believe.

“I didn’t think we’d make it this far,” Avery said. “I’m just hoping he’ll do a good job and he’ll have support.”

Aaron II said he’ll be listening to Obama’s speech for a signal that “there’s no types of racism — at all.”

The Fords are among the hordes of families that poured into this city on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 80th birthday on Monday. Among the T-shirts being hawked along historic Pennsylvania Avenue was one that carried the images of King and Obama side by side — a dream made, a dream realized, it said.

Obama never set out to campaign on race, becoming instead the first national candidate who transcended the black-and-white politics that has defined many candidacies. But even Obama acknowledged, during an interview last week with CNN, that “if you think about the journey this country has made, then it can’t help but stir your heart.”

Berna Rhodes-Ford knew that once Obama won the election, her family needed to be here as he was sworn into office. She called every Nevada lawmaker in Washington looking for tickets. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office obliged.)

For the trip, she gave a disposable camera to each of her boys — Avery, Aaron and 3-year-old Alexander, as well as her nephew, Devin, 11, who stays with the family.

They will document their time in the capital. After all of her reinforcing in her children the limitless belief in their potential, “now they’re going to see it in living color.”

The family has been involved in Democratic politics in Southern Nevada. Aaron, the father, is on the board of Clark County Democrats, and Berna worked the polls on election night last fall.

During the presidential campaign season, when their youngest, Alexander, was just 2, he recognized Obama on the TV. He called him, in toddler-ese, “Rock Obama.”

The dad has a peace now knowing that his youngest son’s earliest memories will be of a black president.

“As far as he can remember, he’ll have that image,” the father said.

Berna is hopeful Obama’s message will be one that speaks to the kids.

“I just want to hear a message our children can relate to,” she said. “It’s all of our history, but they’re going to live it a lot longer.”

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