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Students travel to D.C. to witness inauguration

Aaron Steiner | Thursday, January 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – When they got to Washington just over a week ago, the students in Notre Dame’s Washington Program knew they were arriving at an opportune time.

“It’s definitely an exciting time to be here,” sophomore Patrick McDonnell said, echoing the thoughts of most of his classmates in the program.

The inauguration and the hope many have for the nation’s 44th president has taken Washington by storm, they said.

“Obama is everywhere you look. I went to the diner and Obama was on the front of the menu. Everywhere – you can’t go anywhere and there’s not Obama,” junior Monika Perry said.

The atmosphere has even shifted in the past days, Perry said.

“When we got here it was fine, but now it’s just out of control,” Perry said. “You can tell everyday that you’re on [the Metro], there’s more people, they don’t know where they’re going.”

The students in the program went to the “We Are One” concert on Sunday afternoon, and most will attend the inauguration ceremony Tuesday.

Through their jobs in the city they’ve taken in the pulse of Washington residents.

“I think a lot of the people in my office are pretty excited just because of the exposure its getting,” Steve Meehan, a junior, said.

“Just talking to people and hearing what they have to say, and from what we know, this level of excitement has not been this high for a long time,” Patrick Brown, a sophomore said.

By the same token, the influx of millions of visitors does test the patience of some residents.

“A lot of people seem pretty excited, but then you can tell the D.C. lifers – they’re just annoyed at the people invading their city,” Meehan said.

Regardless, everyone recognizes that Washington is the center of the action, bound to attract people by the millions, Brown said.

“This is the place to be right now, all the celebrities, all the notable dignitaries they all want to be here right now,” Brown said.

Brown and McDonnell said the inauguration did play a role in their decision to come to Washington this semester.

“I thought, ‘Spring ’09 is going to be the inauguration, it’s going to be a new administration, whoever wins,’ and at that point we didn’t even know who the nominees were, but I knew it was going to be an exciting time no matter who won,” Brown said.

McDonnell agreed.

“I know I wanted to do this program at some point and … it’s an exciting time,” he said.

Perry said that while she didn’t even realize the inauguration would take place while she was in Washington, she now fully recognizes how historic the experience is.

“You know that your kids are going to ask you when they come back from 7th grade history or something,” she said.

It’s difficult not to get swept up in the chaos, Meehan said, and forget the importance of some events.

“There’s just so much going on at once that you’re not going to lose the historical sense,” he said. “I think as time goes by, even this semester, we’ll look back and realize how important this was.”

Brown said he expects that even after the inauguration wraps up Washington will still be an exciting place to be.

“[The excitement’s] not going to go away because of the momentum he has, and what they’re trying to do is inspiring a lot of action and counter-action from both sides. There’s not a better time to be in D.C. that I can think of than during a new administration, a new leadership,” Brown said.

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Students travel to D.C. to witness inauguration

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, January 20, 2009

WASHINGTON – Millions are converging on the nation’s capital to watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office today, and hotels, spare bedrooms and couches are being filled throughout the metropolitan area.

But few people have a closer site to crash than Saint Mary’s sophomore Colleen Lowry.

Transportation routes will be packed with crowds in the early hours this morning, as millions make their way to the Capitol and the National Mall to watch the swearing-in and the inauguration speech at noon. Lowry won’t have to brave crowds on the roads, bridges and Metro, since Monday night she stayed in Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan’s office in the Longworth House Congressional Building, mere seconds away from the Capitol, where Obama will be sworn in.

“We walk out the door and we are on Capitol Hill,” Lowry said. On Sunday night, Lowry stayed with her brother in the suburbs, but she and her parents moved to Ryan’s office Monday so they could avoid the traffic into the city.

“We have air mattresses and there are couches and stuff here,” she said. “Eight of us are staying here, including the congressman.”

Lowry left her home in Ohio Sunday morning and that night went to the Ohio Gala Ball at a hotel in the city. The Ohio State band played and the governor and the lieutenant governor were there as well as several congressmen.

This is not her first time witnessing the transition of power. Lowry and her parents came to the inaugurations in 2000 and 1996.

“I think this one is definitely a lot more exciting, because I was able to vote in this election, so I had a say in it,” she said. “And I campaigned for Barack Obama.”

Lowry plans to wake up early, before 7 a.m., to walk over to her ticketed section.

“I am really excited to see all the people that are supposed to be coming out for this, and to see how packed the mall will be,” she said. “Just to see the millions of common Americans that will be there.”

Notre Dame sophomore Jasmine Williams will not need a hotel room or couch during her time in Washington. Along with about 50 others from Notre Dame, many of them members of the Africana club, Williams left campus at about 4 p.m. to drive through the night to get to the inauguration.

“It’s a huge opportunity to see history, something that’s never happened before,” she said. “It’ll be cool to tell my grandkids these things.”

Most members of the club do not have tickets to the inauguration, so they plan to line the parade route instead.

Notre Dame senior Mallory Laurel had a ticket to the inauguration but did not arrive in Washington in time to pick it up. On Monday, long lines formed outside the House and Senate office buildings with people waiting to pick up tickets for inauguration. Laurel left Notre Dame on a bus organized by engineering professor Leo McWilliams shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, expecting to arrive at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. Laurel, who spoke to The Observer by phone, said she had not yet decided whether she would try to stand in the non-ticketed area of the National Mall to hear Obama’s inauguration speech, or whether she would try to stake out a position along the parade route.

Laurel decided to make the trip – spending two consecutive nights on a bus – because she thinks the inauguration will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It’s going to be an experience. So many people are going who don’t have tickets,” she said. “The whole point is to show up and be there in community supporting the president-elect.

“Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to the crowd,” she said.

About 50 people are on the same bus as Laurel coming from Notre Dame, most members of the Notre Dame chapter of the College Democrats, but also some who just got word of the bus trip and wanted to join, she said.