Woman who introduced Obama at Toledo campaign stops receives invite to inauguration

On Labor Day at Scott High School, Kenyetta Jones introduced President Obama during the campaign. She is a citizen co-chair of his inauguration.
On Labor Day at Scott High School, Kenyetta Jones introduced President Obama during the campaign. She is a citizen co-chair of his inauguration.

Toledoan and autoworker Kenyetta Jones, who revved up a Labor Day campaign rally for President Obama and then played a big part in his nomination, has been named a “Citizen Co-Chair” of his inauguration to take place Monday in Washington.

Ms. Jones, 48, was already planning to attend the inauguration and then learned this week that she’ll be an honored guest and have her travel and room paid for by the inaugural committee’s fund-raising dollars.

She and her husband, Darryl, will stay at the Holiday Inn Capitol for the three days of activities. Accommodations at the C Street hotel run from about $470 to $720 a night, depending on the type of room chosen. That makes a three-night stay about $1,611 to $2,470, including tax. A flight from Detroit to D.C. generally runs from $200 to $570 per round trip ticket.

“This is beautiful. I never even saw it coming,” said Ms. Jones. “I’m just ecstatic. This is an honor.”

Today, President Obama today met with the eight citizen co-chairs in the Oval Office. The Presidential Inaugural Committee said naming co-chairs is a new inaugural tradition created by the President and Vice President Joe Biden.

“As we get ready to kick off the Inaugural weekend, it is an honor to welcome these eight remarkable Americans to the White House,” said President Obama. “Each of them remind me not only how much we have accomplished, but also how much we have left to do over the coming four years.”

Ms. Jones is a 27-year employee of the General Motors Powertrain plant in Toledo, where she works in shipping and as an alternate in benefits representation. She will be one of eight co-chairmen for this weekend’s 57th presidential inauguration.

She was laid off for a year during the economic downturn starting in 2009 and returned to work in April, 2010, after GM received a taxpayer-funded bailout championed by Mr. Obama, over the opposition of many Republicans. The President’s rescue of the auto industry was the centerpiece of his re-election campaign in Ohio.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is coordinating the events culminating in the oath-taking on Monday, said that each co-chairman will play an important role in the inaugural ceremonies. The co-chairmen will participate in a national day of service on Saturday. On Inauguration Day, the co-chairmen will take part in the Inaugural Parade, riding on the “Our People, Our Future” float, and attend the Inaugural Ball.

“Every day, I’m inspired by the determination, grit, and resilience of the American people,” Mr. Obama said in a statement released by the committee. “The stories of these extraordinary men and women highlight both the progress we’ve made and how much we have left to do. They remind us that when we live up to the example set by the American people, there is no limit to how bright our future can be.”

The other co-chairmen are from Virginia, California, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, and Washington, D.C.

Ms. Jones gave a rousing introduction to Mr. Obama at Scott High School on Labor Day.

“I remember that day so vividly,” Ms. Jones said at the rally, recalling her layoff. “Times were really tough. We rallied around one another. A job is more than a paycheck. It’s about our dignity and independence.”

She said she began retraining and was confident the jobs would return.

“Because he bet on the American worker and rescued the auto industry, I got my job back,” Ms. Jones said at the rally.

The President thanked her for the introduction, a tradition in all of his rallies.

“I’ve got to say thank you to Kenyetta for that outstanding introduction. I was listening backstage, and I thought I heard a little preaching going on,” Mr. Obama said, before launching into his prepared remarks. “Kenyetta can talk, no doubt about it.”

She went on to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte that same week in September to highlight the President’s role in saving the auto industry. She has two daughters, Brittany Jones, 25, now in a master’s program at Wayne State University, and Brianna Jones, 21, a student at the University of Toledo and member of the women’s basketball team.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.