Skyline students attend swearing-in ceremony
January 27, 2009
By Christopher Huber
American politics and government took on a whole new meaning for 35 Skyline High School students, their government teacher and three chaperones, after experiencing the presidential inauguration firsthand Jan. 20.By some accounts, more than 1.5 million people were estimated to have attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. And millions more watched the historic moment on television or the Internet.
The group from Sammamish was on a three-day whirlwind trip they had been planning since last February. It was part educational, part witnessing history, but overall, the students said they have a greater appreciation for the democratic system.
“The inauguration in general, no matter who the new president is, is a special time to be in Washington, D.C.,” said Skyline humanities teacher and trip organizer Rob Rosemont as he sat in Reagan National Airport in Northern Virginia Jan. 20. “I really just wanted to organize this so they could witness history.”
As the group waited for its plane back to Seattle, Rosemont reflected on his experience and said the inauguration scene was positive and peaceful.
“Everybody seemed to have a common bond that overrode everything else,” he said.
Rosemont, along with five students, used the group’s six allotted tickets, provided by Congressman Dave Reichert to view the ceremony from the reserve seating area about 300 yards from the stage. The rest of the group watched the screens from about a mile away.
For Skyline junior Rachel Blyth, the experience was eye opening. Interacting with people from across the country changed her perspective.
“It was a cool experience to see how other people viewed it,” she said. “You could hear lines in his speech that will be on his memorial some day.”
Blyth said she was particularly impacted by a part of Obama’s speech about leaders blaming the West: “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”
“That hit the nail on the head for a lot of people,” Blyth said.
Rosemont, who has orchestrated class trips to the nation’s capital before, decided during the heated 2008 primary voting season that he would set up a trip to this year’s inauguration. At that point, the frontrunners for the White House were Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudolph Giuliani.
“Some kids maybe hoped it was Obama, but that wasn’t the reason they signed up,” Rosemont said. “They signed up for the trip regardless of who it was.”
Skyline junior T.J. Forney said he also found a new appreciation for American government.
“It makes it seem a lot more real,” he said. “Actually being there, it gives you the sense that this is more than it’s made out to be — it’s really going on.”
Although the inauguration festivities were the highlight for most of the students, they also spent two days prior learning, in person, about American history.
“We were always on the move,” Forney said. Upon arrival from their red-eye flight, they went straight to Starbucks, he said.
They visited the Holocaust Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and various other places.
“Seeing a lot of the monuments and memorials before helped put the inauguration into perspective,” Blyth said. “It helped to see what changes (Obama) was going to make — to be able to look back and see how things had been and how he is going to be the change.”
An attempt in 2004 to take Skyline students to the historic event didn’t fly, due to lack of interest, Rosemont said, but this year was the perfect opportunity to feed students’ enthusiasm for the political process.
“I saw a real kind of spark in the students. Regardless of the elected candidate,” he said. “I knew it would be somebody of interest to the kids.
“It was amazing,” he added. “I think the students had a great time, the chaperones had a good time. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.”
Forney’s greatest memory about the trip, he said, was, “witnessing everything firsthand. It’s not the same as when you read about it in a history book.”
Reach Reporter Christopher Huber at 392-6434, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.