Students experience inauguration first-hand
Siblings march in inaugural parade
Savanna Rafto, Kelly Zahn and Brittany Traeger waited for hours in the cold inaugural morning not only to see the president, but to support their siblings.
The three AU students bundled up for the first, and probably last, time for a chance to experience a moment in history.
While Rafto and Traeger saw their brother and sisters perform in the parade, they caught only a glimpse of President Barack Obama in his limo.
“I woke up earlier this morning so excited and thought, ‘In four years, I get to do this all over again!’” Traeger, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said. “I’m glad I did it once without knowing how awful it would be.”
Savanna’s brother, Sheaffer, is a freshman tuba player for Punahou School, a college preparatory school near Honolulu and Obama’s alma mater. The band played at the 2009 inauguration and Obama has made several visits to play basketball at the school during his presidency.
Sheaffer waited with his band and many others in a heated tent near the Capitol before the parade. Traeger’s sisters, Stefanie and Nicole, joined Sheaffer there.
The parade began at the Capitol, but stalled on its way to the White House. The president and First Lady walked down Pennsylvania Avenue near the Old Post Office Pavilion. But to the chagrin of the audience near 14th Street, the president remained inside his limo.
“He [Obama] knocked on the window and smiled right at me,” Zahn, a sophomore in Kogod School of Business said.
Not far behind, Punahou made its appearance. In a row of seven tubas, one towered in the middle. Sheaffer tried to remain stoic while his sister called to him. He let slip a small smirk and a glance before placing his lips on the tuba to play the school fight song, “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”
Rafto, a freshman in Kogod, completed her goal for the day.
“It was cold but worth seeing,” Rafto said. “I successfully embarrassed my brother.”
Traeger spotted her sister, Nicole, wielding her flag at the back row of the Jackson Memorial colorguard. White feathers blew across Jackson’s Cavalier style hats, while Nicole and Stefanie marched in red and black tracksuits.
After capturing some photos, the girls took what energy they had left and headed to G Street in search of warmth and a place to eat.
A night at the ball
Rafto also attended the Presidential Pearl Inaugural Gala on Jan. 20 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which was one of about 50 unofficial black tie events held in D.C. to celebrate the inauguration.
As a Hawaii native, Rafto attended a gala that recognized Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Hawaii is such an isolated place that a lot of the only politics that affect us the most are state races and presidential races, so there’s a big difference when you are actually in the same city as politicians and their actions directly influence you,” Rafto said.
Rafto had no desire to be involved with politics before coming to AU, she said. However, she was excited for the inaugural events on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 because Obama is an alumnus of her school, Rafto said.
“It’s definitely been a big change just coming to AU because I’ve gotten so much more involved in politics,” Rafto said. “I’ve become so much more open-minded and open to politics, and I guess I understand more about politics now that I’ve come here.”
Senate intern gets ticket to inauguration
In the crowd of over 700,000 people gathered on the National Mall on Jan. 21 stood School of Public Affairs senior Seth Coppe to welcome Obama back for another four years in the Oval Office.
“Four years ago, I had no political involvement and never would I have imagined that I would be there at the center of it all,” Coppe said. Now, he is an intern for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and part of the AU College Democrats.
Coppe started his morning off on Jan. 21 by having breakfast with Manchin in his office and then took off to his front row seat in the ticket-only seated section at the Inauguration.
While thousands poured into the Inauguration, Coppe did not just have a close-up view of the speakers and special guests, but he could also feel the enthusiasm of the crowd.
As Coppe went from watching the Inauguration on his television screen to in person, what stood out to him the most was the possibility of political unity when he saw Sen. Lamar Alexander’s, R-Tenn., speech that set aside partisan differences.
“I saw such enthusiasm,” Coppe said. “You know people were just so happy to be there, because more than likely these people worked really hard to get the president elected. You know this was their celebration so it wasn’t just his celebration, but theirs also.”