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Jerry Davich: Waking up for historic moment

Students their families pray conference room RamadInn Hammond Wednesday night before leaving for inauguratiPresident Barack Obama. The students left early

Students and their families pray in a conference room at the Ramada Inn in Hammond the Wednesday night before leaving for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The students left early Thursday morning. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:10AM



Tamara Lofton is hoping to get as close as possible to President Obama’s inauguration ceremony today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The 18-year-old young lady from Gary is in Washington, D.C., with a group of other Wirt-Emerson Academy for the Performing Arts students.

“I feel like a part of history because I get to see Barack Obama, the man who made history once, be sworn in as proof of now making history twice,” Lofton told me from D.C. during a tight schedule of activities on their itinerary.

“I am proud to represent the youth of Gary by attending the inauguration. And I hope that those back home watch the inauguration on TV and get inspired to make history themselves one day,” the high school senior added.

Jaelan Collins, 17, also a senior, said her experience there is “amazingly exciting.”

“Seeing such a great president and his family in person is a pleasure. Also, so is the surprise of possibly seeing different celebrities,” Collins said.

Accompanied by Steve Sutton, a visual arts teacher at the Gary school, Lofton, Collins and the nine other students left this region on Thursday for a weekend of festivities in the nation’s capital and today’s presidential ceremony,

Several other Northwest Indiana groups and individuals also traveled to D.C. for today’s public outdoor inauguration, which is expected to attract 600,000 to 800,000 visitors from around the world. Still, it will be far less than the 1.8 million who converged on the National Mall for Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 (the most-attended inauguration in history).

Another group of local students is there, sponsored by the Barden Gary Foundation and the Close Up Program, for a week-long government studies program. It reflects the belief that a “close up” look at our government encourages students to grow in their understanding of the democratic process, according to Foundation President Chareice White.

The trip, including workshops, parties and VIP tours, is highlighted by personally witnessing the swearing-in of the president. This will surely be a life-long cherished memory for these teens, who will return to the region on Wednesday.

A way to be involved

Elka Geller Nelson, a lawyer from Porter, is in D.C. along with five other women, most who also attended Obama’s first inauguration. Nelson also will attend the parade, the Peace Ball and several other high-profile events.

“I am proud that our country was able to pull it together to re-elect Obama,” said Nelson, who proudly boasted, and posted, her official tickets and invitations on her Facebook page. “However, in order to keep things moving we need to support him and this is another way to show my support.”

Another reason to be there is the opportunity to be involved in the National Day of Service events, which took place on Saturday. Nelson signed up to be a volunteer at the National Mall.

“I have a pretty good life and try my best to give back,” she said. “We can’t all sit at home and complain, but do nothing. I gripe about a lot, but always try to do what I can to make it better.”

Gerald Amaker and his 19-year-old son, Gerald Jr., traveled to Maryland on Friday morning to stay at a hotel over the weekend. The father-son duo from Griffith plan on arriving for today’s ceremony by 6 a.m. at the latest.

“We don’t mind waking up for this historic moment,” said Gerald Sr., 51, who voted for Obama in both presidential campaigns.

“I hope to be a lawmaker someday and this opportunity should help inspire me,” said Gerald Jr., who attends college in Maryland.

This year’s ceremony, including the official parade, balls and related festivities, is expected to cost roughly $50 million, via donations to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. (The 2009 inauguration cost roughly $53 million.) And you thought the immensely deep-pocketed presidential campaign was wasteful spending?

For you trivia buffs, did you know President Obama becomes the 17th U.S. president to be sworn in for a second term, a historical footnote for experts and scholars? And also that the president’s private (not public) oath took place on Sunday?

Harry S. Truman’s second inauguration was the first on TV, in 1949. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C., which took place in 1801.

Finally, at President Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, in 1865, blacks were allowed to take part in the parade, a first for this country. And, in 1917, women first participated in the inaugural parade of President Woodrow Wilson.

How far we’ve come, huh? It’s taken us only 148 years and 96 years, respectively.

Tamara Lofton and Jaelan Collins, along with millions of other Americans through the decades, are standing on the shoulders of so many before them who could only dream about what is taking place today in the nation’s capital.

On the upside, the two Gary teenage girls are at the perfect location and ideal day to continue that dream.

Find more of Jerry’s writings on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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