Naples students offer first-person account of inauguration

The National Mall on the day of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013.

Emma Beckmann-Wood

The National Mall on the day of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013.

Emma Beckmann-Wood

Emma Beckmann-Wood

Paige Stevens

Paige Stevens

Emma Beckmann-Wood and Katrin Gendova, Community School of Naples students who attended the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Emma Beckmann-Wood and Katrin Gendova, Community School of Naples students who attended the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

A 'communal and peaceful gathering'

"Let's go! Hurry!" Katrin and I were pushing through the thousands of people charging the complete opposite way. We started at the Washington Monument, and ended up at Fourth Street. I personally thought our feet would fall off. We finally made it, an ocean of waving American flags and the leader of our country elegantly spoke.

The wind captured the myriad of emotions felt during the swearing in of the President of the United States. One could sense the national importance of the ceremony. Denizens from all over the country, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, smiling, crying, were unified to witness the beginning of the next four years. No matter what political background or side one takes, the main idea is the uniqueness of the communal and peaceful gathering during the time of the inauguration.

Many other countries cannot comprehend the solemn ceremony that takes place in the United States of America. Standing at the National Mall, watching the hundreds of thousands of people's glistening eyes was unforgettable. Even coming from a diverse background of living in Asia, Europe and the U.S., the vast diversity impressed me. The idea that America is so special to be able to voice your own opinion. We do not realize how lucky we are to speak out without immediately being shutdown.

Especially as a high school student, I believe we need to take advantage of speaking up. I had a realization of the importance and necessity to become aware. As young people, we do not pay enough attention to the political factors that take a major role when we grow up. I hope President Obama utilizes the words from his speech to improve our country over the next four years. My journey to Washington was one that will aid my noesis of politics, and more importantly the country I inhabit.

— Emma Beckmann-Wood, a senior at The Community School of Naples, was among other seniors on a trip to Washington, D.C. She refers to her friend and fellow student, Katrin Gendova.

An event 'unlike any other'

I never would have imagined that after watching the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, I would be standing on the National Mall along with hundreds of thousands of other spectators just four years later.

The inauguration of any president is an event unlike any other, though you've never met anyone of those hundreds of thousands around you, You share a sense of community. There must have been something in the 36-degree air that made people realize that we really aren't so different from one another.

The previous day, I had the honor of being selected to meet Dr. Condoleezza Rice and listen to a number of other great presentations. Monday was exhausting. Wake-up call was at 4 a.m., and by 6:30, we'd arrived at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to warm up and take a look around before the inauguration started.

By 8:30 a.m., my group and I were in the middle of the National Mall, just behind the Capitol reflecting pool. It was chilly, and it was a lot of waiting around, but ultimately it was worth it. When the congressmen, former presidents, and current president came out, the crowd was swept into a frenzy. Masses of people were chanting "O-BAM-A" and others were silent out of pure awe.

Obama's inaugural speech was surely an inspiration to many, as he promised that he would show America that he is the right person to lead us through the next four years. This experience was one like no other, and I know I will be left with many stories to tell in the future.

— Paige Stevens is a Barron Collier High School junior. She traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration and five-day High School Presidential Inaugural Conference.

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