The glitz, glamour and importance of the second inauguration of the nation’s 44th president fulfilled the expectations of Genoa High School students attending the event, and then some.
“I was kind of giddy through the whole thing,” said senior Clay Parlette, who was among the 800,000 onlookers converged Monday on the National Mall to witness Barack Obama take the oath of office.
“It was just really cool to think that I witnessed this historic moment. I watch it every year (on television). The whole world is watching and I was actually there.”
As the trip wound down Tuesday, Parlette said he was experiencing a range of emotions during final hours of the four-day excursion. “It’s like a perfect combination of tired and excited,” he said.
The teen was among 11 students escorted to Washington D.C. by Social Studies teacher Jim Dempster and Government teacher Ron Liwo.
They scored big in the final days before departure – wrangling VIP seats courtesy of the office of Ohio 5th District Congressman Bob Latta.
The group woke early Monday, stockpiled box breakfasts and a bunch of goodies to get them through the day and then boarded a bus at their Annapolis, Md. hotel bound for the heart of Washington, D.C.
“We watched the sun come up over the Capitol Building. It was beautiful,” Dempster said.
“It was an awesome experience,” he added. “We had such excellent seats. We were just so close compared to what other people had.”
The mid-school year trip, paid for entirely by each individual student, was planned and overseen by Education First, a subsidiary of Smithsonian Student Travel.
The organization’s itinerary included stops at local restaurants as well as sightseeing tours of The Smithsonian museums, Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as a night tour of Washington D.C.
The Genoa group teamed with students from Arkansas and Louisiana throughout most of the trip.
While dining and in between tour breaks, the teens spent a time chatting and learning about one another. “It was pretty interesting exchanging lifestyles and talking about how things were back home compared to them,” Parlette said. “It was neat to hear about their views.”
Yet, it was the moment he stepped onto the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon along the Potomac River that Parlette said he would remember fondly.
“Mount Vernon was the best,” Parlette said. “It just felt so historic. It’s just so beautiful – the property – everything. And to be at the place where our forefathers once stood was just unbelievable.”
The weather cooperated through much of the Genoa group’s time spent in the nation’s capital. The mercury reached a balmy (for January) 62 degrees Sunday during the festivities, which included an inaugural ball for students from across the country. Temperatures dropped to the 30s on the day of the public ceremony, but were still a far cry from the frigid temperatures four years ago.
Tuesday, as the students readied to return, newscasts brought a chilling reminder of winter. Schools across Northwest Ohio were on two-hour delays as arctic air embraced the Midwest, sending wind chill readings into negative digits.
“Yea, they weren’t too thrilled to hear about that,” Dempster chuckled.