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Tuesday, December 11, 2012
College road trip: D.C. or bust
Students reflect on Inauguration Day experiences  

Jan 22, 2009  
  

The 2008 presidential election saw the largest student voter participation in election history -- and Ohio University students played a big role. They stumped for their candidates, hit the streets to register voters, manned satellite offices, worked the polls and wowed millions of viewers with their knowledge of the issues during a two-day live airing of "Fox and Friends" for the March primary.

Here, three of those students -- a public relations manager for the student-run Scoop '08, an executive member of Students for Barack Obama and a new U.S. citizen -- share what they experienced on their college road trip to attend Tuesday's inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Janelle Huelsman, 21

Chickasaw, Ohio

Junior, public relations major

Specialties in business and Spanish

Something in the air

"From the moment we got there, I could sense an energy I've never felt before and don't know if I'll ever feel again. We were exchanging stories with people around us -- students from New York, a couple from Ohio and many African-Americans who were just so proud. Suddenly, I was proud to be an American. I felt patriotic. This energy consumed me. It was a feeling of community, hope and belonging. Standing there, looking at this one man make history and promises, we all seemed so excited for our futures."

A sense of togetherness

"Before the ceremony, there were replays of Sunday's 'We Are One' concert on the screens. One of my favorite moments was when the entire crowd watched the screen and sang in unison to 'This Land is Our Land.' A very moving moment for me was when Rev. Rick Warren was giving the invocation and suddenly you could hear hundreds of thousands of people whispering 'The Lord's Prayer' with him."

On attending

"I knew that I could watch it from home, but I also knew being there would be so much more. It was that excitement of witnessing history, the crowds and the energy. You can't get that from a television broadcast. I could stand with my fellow Americans and witness, in peace, this moment in history. Since watching Obama's speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention on television, it has been a dream of mine to hear him speak in person. And not only did I hear him speak, I witnessed him being sworn into office and giving the Inaugural Address. Just being there and being so hopeful that I will have a bright future is a feeling I know that I will not forget."


Anastasia Pronin, 21

Born in Russia, now of Twinsburg, Ohio

Senior, public relations major

Finding a place

"We arrived at the National Mall at 5:30 a.m. and were able to find standing room about a quarter of the way down the mall, very close to the second large Jumbotron screen. We were able to see the Capitol Building straight ahead, but, of course, we were too far away to see anything (happening there). We watched the ceremony on the screen."

Defining moment

"When Barack Obama completed his oath and the justice said 'Congratulations, Mr. President.' We had waited close to seven hours in freezing temperatures to hear those words, and when they were finally said, it almost felt surreal. At one moment, he was the president-elect, and the next, he was our 44th president."

New friends

"The crowd was quiet at first. At times it was somewhat stressful and crowded, as people wanted to secure the best standing room and view the screen. As the sun rose, it was clear that enthusiasm was also beginning to rise, and everyone was becoming more excited. It was just an exciting experience to be among so many people who were generally thrilled to be there, despite the cold and the long hours. Once all the government representatives began to file in and the ceremony began, we all seemed to forget that we could barely feel our fingers and toes. In general, you could feel a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. The enthusiasm was palpable."

A memorable milestone

"Having been born in Moscow, Russia, I only recently became a U.S. citizen at the age of 17. This made (the inauguration) even more important to me. I was not born with the right to vote in this country. It was a decision that my family had to make, and I know that we are all very excited about the new direction our country is moving."


Stephanie Gogul, 22

Steubenville, Ohio

Senior, communication and public advocacy major

The enormity of the crowd
"It was hard for me to understand how many people were on the mall because I could only see so far behind me. It was only when the big screens started showing overhead shots of the crowd that I really understood how amazing an event this was and how extraordinary it was for all of these people to stand out in the freezing cold for so many hours to hear our president take the oath. It was really encouraging to see so much support for our president and to see how proud everyone was to be an American. I had never seen that kind of pride and unity before in my lifetime."

A lasting legacy
"I was surprised at the number of young children in the crowd. I overheard many parents saying that they wanted their children to be a part of this historical moment and that they wanted to share the experience with them. I overheard one woman saying that this event and this election had made her so optimistic about her daughter's future that she wanted her to come see the inauguration to show her that anything was possible."

Worth the work

"I was on the executive board for Students for Barack Obama. Being at the inauguration made all the hard work and long hours I put into the campaign completely fulfilling. After working on the campaign, I knew I had to witness this man, who I have so much faith in, be sworn in as our president. The inauguration changed the way I look at America. I believe that people have hope again in their lives and that President Obama has brought back the American dream. My pride for America has grown so much over the last year because of Barack Obama, and I wanted to show that pride to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. It was so empowering to know that I made a difference and that my voice was heard."

-- Compiled by Jennifer Krisch

 

 

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Published: Jan 22, 2009 12:03 PM  



inauggirl  
Single-digit temperatures and a healthy dose of patriotism prompted Ohio University senior Stephanie Gogul to make sure she was well-outfitted for the inauguration.

-- Photo by Meghan Bender

  

 inaugcrowds
 
A sea of citizens crowded the Mall within view of the Capitol Building, where Barack Obama was sworn in.

-- Photo by Laura Woolf

  

inaugmetro   
It was standing-room-only on the Metro as scores of people streamed into D.C.

-- Photo by Laura Woolf

  

 

  





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