Dublin High School Students on Witnessing an Historic Inauguration and March
It occurs once every four years in the United States. It is either the peaceful transfer or continuation of power vested in the White House. 2017 was no different in that Donald J. Trump accepted the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States and succeeded Barack Obama on Friday, January 20th. The event was witnessed by thousands of people and was viewed my millions more on broadcast television throughout the globe. However, there is a local angle worth noting.
On the preceding Sunday, 15 Dublin High School students gathered at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and boarded a flight to the Washington Dulles Airport. This excursion was organized through the Close Up organization. Since its founding the mission of the group has been to offer a “living classroom” experience in the nation’s capitol. This is largely achieved through an experiential process – both on the ground and in seminar settings. As in previous years, the program includes students from across the entire country. Through DHS, the program has been led by faculty members Jennifer McCort and Kelly Beck.
While the trip occurs annually, this January trip was made even more significant in that the attendees would have the rare opportunity to witness a Presidential Inauguration ceremony. The daily schedule for the students included a mixture of memorial site visits and classroom workshops/seminars. Some of the notable sites visited were those that included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Jefferson and the Korea & Vietnam Memorials. Additionally, the group made visits to the Newseum, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Museum and to the Iwo Jima Memorial. Meals were hosted at their hotel in Arlington and Good Night/Room Check occurred between 10:00 – 11:00 PM.
The Dublin High School students resided at the Crystal City Marriott with a typical room configuration of four students. In an effort to promote a growth experience, two students were paired with others from another part of the country. In sum, it provided a very positive experience and the students were anxious to exchange contact information before the end of the week.
While the temperatures were cool in Washington D.C. that week, the excitement was growing as Friday approached. Thanks to the generosity of Dublin High School alum Congressman Eric Swalwell, the Dublin contingent was granted a preferred viewing position on the National Mall which provided our students with an improved opportunity to enjoy this experience. The only “hiccup” appeared to be that the speaker’s voices did not synch up to the video boards that were located nearby.
In order to fully understand this experience, OneDublin.org reached out to some students that were present and to gain their feedback on this once in a lifetime trip.
OneDublin.org: As a first time visitor to the nation’s capital, how did Washington D.C. meet or exceed your expectations. Were you surprised by anything?
Sammie Crocker (Sophomore): “D.C. to me exceeded my expectations. I loved every minute I was there. Everything we saw, everyone we met was beyond spectacular. I had never imagined the complexity of the architecture to be as beautiful as it was. It’s just something you don’t see through a photo. Structures like the Jefferson memorial and the capitol building stood out to me for the size. I always expected them to be big, but seeing it in person was insane to me. Everyone we met on the trip, including some more famous politicians, were so kind. Going into the trip, I wasn’t sure of the general attitude of the people in the area. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised with the welcoming vibe.”
OneDublin.org: Describe your living arrangements during your stay. Where were you roommates from and what did you learn about them?
Sammie Crocker: “Our living arrangements consisted of a shared room between four people, two from Dublin High and two from a different state. My sister and I were paired with two girls for Louisiana. They were both very nice, and coincidentally, one girl had the same name as me, Samantha. I loved sharing the room with these two girls because they were nice, did not have strong political views so there was no drama and very fun to compare our lives outside of the trip. We talked a lot for the little time we were in our rooms. We seemed to be lucky with our roommates, as others (not from Dublin High or rooming with) had some interesting stories from within their hotel rooms.”
OneDublin.org: Please identify some of the more powerful memorials that you visited. Why were these so memorable?
Lexxie Crocker (Freshman): “The most powerful memorials that I visited were the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Monument and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial was the most memorable because it was the first Memorial I had ever visited. It was amazing to see an entire structure made in the likeness of a great person. The FDR Memorial was a lot of fun to walk through. Although the water feature was turned off, it was still an amazing sight to see. There was so much detail incorporated into it and all the little hidden quotes were fun to find. Finally, we visited the MLK Monument. We saw this monument on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so there were flowers and newspapers all around it. Looking at the newspapers dated back to the time when he was alive. It was so cool to see that people had kept these papers.”
OneDublin.org: In addition to tours, the week was sprinkled with various workshops and seminars. Please share some of the more meaningful topics/discussions. Was there political diversity demonstrated in each group?
Alexandra Stassinopoulos (Senior): “Each night of the trip we had different workshops after dinner. The first night was a debate between a self-proclaimed liberal and conservative. I thought that the debate was really helpful because it helped un-demonize conservatives for me. I also found it really interesting that while there were many topics on which that the two debaters could find middle ground, there were some issues, such as abortion, where they couldn’t. Besides of that debate, my other favorite workshop was the “mock congress”. There was a lot of political diversity within the program, so when we were working to “pass” a bill, you had to actually talk with people who didn’t agree with you and convince them that this bill was in their best interest. The day before the inauguration we also went to a speech by “FairVote”, which is an organization trying to modernize voting process, including the Electoral College. It was a cool because it made me realize that our nation’s political structure is always evolving and isn’t necessary stuck in the past.”
OneDublin.org: While you have previously visited the nation’s capital, this was your first opportunity to observe an Inauguration. Please share some of the highlights from this experience.
Stassinopoulos: “The inauguration was definitely a lifetime experience. I loved being on the Washington Mall and seeing the Capitol Building completely decked out. I also thought that the atmosphere, before the speakers anyway, was one of mass anticipation and patriotism, which isn’t a feeling one often feels in a crowd of total strangers. I remember appreciating the ceremony through Senator Blunt’s speech, especially the part about how the inauguration itself is both “a miracle, yet commonplace”. However, once Chuck Schumer began speaking, the crowd around us was booing so loudly, we couldn’t hear anything from the Jumbotron, and any positive atmosphere at the ceremony dissipated.”
Subsequent to the momentous Inauguration, an historic Women’s March on Washington D.C. occurred on Saturday. While not mandatory, the DHS students were offered the opportunity to participate and about half of them elected to attend. The other students were free to either relax or to continue their touring activities. By Saturday evening, it was time to pack up and to prepare for another travel day.
That said, most of our Gaels had a completely unique experience and chance meeting. On Wednesday, the group traveled to “Capitol Hill Day” with the potential opportunity to witness a portion of the Senate confirmation hearings for specific cabinet hearings. These hearings are open to the public, but there is no timed seating and the schedule comes with no guarantees. Along with the rest of the public, the DHS students waited in line along the corridors of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in the hopes of viewing part of the Health & Human Services hearing. In the course of this lengthy wait, Karyn Utsumi (Senior) exited the line to utilize the restroom. While washing her hands, she could feel the presence of a dignitary at her side doing the same. This person stated: “Wow, the water pressure is so low – it’s barely a drip!” Karyn acknowledged the comment and then exited the room. However, the moment was too great to let pass by and she waited patiently by the door. Upon the visitor’s exit, she asked if she were willing to take an image with a group of students from California. “Of course, but I’ll need to get back to work” she stated. The visitor was Elizabeth Warren, senior Senator from MA. To the disbelief of these students, the Senator calmly and patiently stood by take pictures with a grateful group of young people. And in one small moment, many lives were positively changed.
OneDublin.org would like to thank Ms. McCort and Ms. Beck for their enthusiasm and willingness to escort these DHS students safely and successful through this D.C. excursion. As previously stated, this is an annual trip and more information can be found at www.closeup.org.