Editor’s Note: Freshman Kendra Potoshnik traveled to Washington D.C. to attend President Obama’s second inauguration last week. Prior to leaving, Potoshnik agreed to serve as a contributing reporter for the Hawkeye and our readers covering the festivities on our behalf. This is her personal account of her amazing trip and these are some of the photos she took while in the nation’s capital.
Story and photos by Kendra Potoshnik
President Obama’s second term Inauguration was in Washington D.C. last Monday and I had the opportunity to attend. My Dad, a social studies teacher at Monroe High School, signed up for the Smithsonian’s Education First program to take a group of high school students to Washington D.C. for the Presidential Inauguration. Not only did we see the Inauguration, we also visited Arlington National Cemetery, George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, some of the Smithsonian museums, various monuments in D.C., and The Library of Congress.
The day before the Inauguration, Washington D.C. was bustling with people. Obama was officially sworn in on this day, Jan. 20, in a private ceremony. On our way to visit Arlington cemetery, our tour bus was detained so the President’s motorcade, also headed to the cemetery, could get by. D.C. was crowded with people from other states, construction workers and security guards preparing for the next day’s events. Hundreds of American flags were flying on houses, strollers, office buildings, and lampposts. This day also marked 52 years since President Kennedy had said, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country,” in his 1961 inaugural address.
On the day of the inauguration, we were up and waiting in lines by 6:00 a.m. and watched the sun rise over the Capitol. Despite the early time, you could sense the excitement teeming in the crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many friendly adults in one place. Strangers were introducing themselves, sharing hand warmers, and talking about what they hoped President Obama would accomplish in his second term. People from all over the country had come together for this event. My group was extremely fortunate to receive tickets and entry to the grass in front of the Capitol. We were able to get closer than the rest of the 800,000 people stretching out for about two miles behind us. From where we were now standing, if we stood on our tip-toes, we could see the podium the president was getting sworn in on. A smaller lady standing next to me just watched through my camera so she could actually see.
Once we made it into the event, we waited for about two hours before the actual inauguration started. Once it did, though, you could tell because everyone became quieter. Some people put their hands over their hearts, like they were saying the pledge of allegiance, with their head down, listening intently. When Obama quoted The Constitution, the people spoke along with him. The crowd cheered each time he ended a paragraph. The enthusiasm that these people brought was inspiring. By the end of Obama’s speech, some people around me were crying.
Obama spoke a lot about how our country’s journey from equality is not yet over. When he said, “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.” I think that touched many of the people viewing. It was a very powerful speech that reached out to many Americans, and gave many people a fresh promise for the four years ahead.
As a high school student, I hope Obama brings change to our schools and makes college more available to everyone, not just the people who can afford it. The more children we give an education to today, the more opportunities we will have in the future. I know far too many people who don’t plan on going to college, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t afford too. I agree with Obama that our nation will be so much stronger when everyone gets an opportunity to be well- educated.
Regardless of what politics you defend, being able to witness a Presidential Inauguration first-hand was an amazing experience. To actually see the places that you history books talk about makes everything you’ve learned so much more realistic. To be able to visit a place so enriched with American history, and to watch American history being made is incredible. I learned a lot about what makes up our government, and how it began. Being given the opportunity to witness a tradition that has been honored since our nation’s founding fathers were alive was just spectacular, and for that I am thankful.