This time four years ago, the country was wild with excitement and opportunity. The Washington region was bustling with vending stands and storefronts — hawking Barack Obama’s picture on everything from T-shirts and coffee mugs to hats and handbags. Anything with a portable surface bore an Obama likeness and became a souvenir to sell. People scalped Inauguration Day tickets and rented space in their homes to turn a quick buck.
The job fair in Largo was a place to see Inauguration Enterprising 2012 in action. It was scheduled to begin at noon, and people lined up early.
“I sent an e-mail with just three lines in it to only about 25 of my clients, and it went viral,” said Adrian Vaughan, a Prince George’s entrepreneur. “When I got here, there were 30 people standing in line. At least five of them told me they had been here since 7 a.m.”
Vaughan owns a job training and motivation center where she offers career planning and job readiness workshops. She and her friend Janet Stevenson Cook, who is building a staffing company, Events Staffing in Bowie, decided to recruit for inauguration week jobs. They were looking for security guards for the swearing-in ceremony and parade, and bartenders, servers and dishwashers for hotels that will need additional help for parties. They collected more than 200 applications at their event. They will conduct background checks, and they expect to fill about 50 positions.
It’s no wonder the response to Vaughan’s e-mail was overwhelming.
Since the 2009 inauguration, the unemployment rate has been near the highest it has been since the Great Depression. In Prince George’s County, the unemployment rate, as it has in the rest of the country, has recovered a bit, but it still has fluctuated between 6.5 and 7.2 percent this year, nearly double pre-recession levels, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. That does not account for the numbers of underemployed individuals.
So word of temporary, part-time jobs for inauguration week offered hope to some.
Michelle Warren, 41, who is a customer service representative at Blue Cross Blue Shield, completed an application for inauguration employment.
“I love what I do, and I truly thank God every day for my job. It’s just not meeting my financial needs,” said the single mother of four. Warren seems fortunate compared to some of her friends who have been unemployed for more than two years. Some of her friends who had become adjusted to high incomes have had the most difficult time adjusting, she said. “With their experience at GS-9, they’re just not finding the money they are looking for. It’s hard to go from making $50,000 to $25,000. That’s a major decrease. I try to give them information. I tell them, ‘Something is better than nothing.’ ”
Warren saw notice of the inauguration job fair posted on Facebook and shared it with friends.
Crossland High School senior Jason Buffaw learned about the job fair from his godmother. He currently works part-time as a “floor sweeper” at a Temple Hills barber shop, and he hopes to earn a little extra during inauguration week.
Our excitement is more sober and measured this time around. Our historic enthusiasm and hope for change four years ago has been tempered by the harsh realities of what change exacts – suffering and sacrifice. Millions of people lost jobs in the last four years as the “re-distribution of wealth” got underway. It seems to me that some old-world tycoons would rather pack up their marbles and go home than play on a more level playing field. A coal company executive, for example, announced layoffs the day after Obama’s reelection.
Stevenson Cook, however, believes the economy is improving.
"I think it's getting better, because retail is beginning to hire,” she said. “Even before the holidays you saw 'help wanted' signs posted in stores."
Warren said she tells her unemployed friends, "Believe God will open doors. Pray until something happens."
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