A presidential experience: East Ridge High School students reflect on attending inauguration
While many Americans watched President Barack Obama's second inauguration on TV or via the Web, two East Ridge High School students found themselves in the heart of the historic occasion.
Freshman Grant Feuer and sophomore Lynnae Boe traveled to Washington, D.C., Jan. 19-23 for the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference.
"I never saw myself actually getting this experience to be on the mall that day," Boe said of the Jan. 21 event.
Feuer said he was able to witness something special.
"Even though it's not as historical as the first time he was inaugurated," he said, "it's still very exciting to see."
Boe and Feuer were invited to attend the conference as past participants in National Young Leaders conferences.
In addition to attending the presidential inauguration, Boe and Feuer, along with the other participants of the conference, also heard from notable keynote speakers -- former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Gen. Wesley Clark, a former NATO supreme allied commander, four-star general and presidential candidate; notable journalists Bob Woodward and Nick Clooney; and Claes Nobel, the grandson of Alfred Nobel who founded the Nobel Prize -- and historians and political experts who spoke about the history behind the electoral process and the traditions surrounding the presidential inauguration.
Boe said she enjoyed hearing Rice speak because she discussed 9/11 and it was interesting to hear her point of view.
Feuer said his favorite speaker was Clarke.
"He talked about perseverance and bravery in leadership," he said. "He gave us insight into how he rose up."
In addition to notable speakers, Boe and Feuer were also able to visit the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
On the day of the inauguration, Boe and Feuer participated in a viewing party where they watched the inaugural parade, as the president, vice president and their families walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.
Boe and Feuer eventually made their way to the National Mall where they, along with thousands of other Americans, watched President Obama take the oath of office.
Feuer said he was moved by the emotion that surrounded him during the inauguration.
"It was amazing to be there and see him raising his hand to take the oath of office," he said. "You could just feel how excited everyone was -- it was very powerful."
Boe and Feuer both said the conference has opened their eyes more to politics and the campaign process. Boe said being a part of the presidential inauguration will be something she will always carry with her.
"Even though it was crowded and you felt like there was no place to move, you could feel the energy just radiating off the crowd -- it was so amazing," Boe said. "Even though the country is divided, we came together because there's no changing that that president is our president -- it was armies of support behind this one moment in time.
"As you're in that crowd and feel that support and that energy and as he's getting sworn in and giving that speech, it's a huge rush; it's almost like, 'Yes, I'm part of this nation, I'm part of the U.S.' It's a proud moment."