Making history: Parkway students attend U.S. inauguration
By: Betsy Zatkulak
On Jan. 21, Americans of every political affiliation watched coverage of the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. Most watched in front of their TVs and laptops, but a group of Parkway high school students not only watched the momentous day unfold – they were part of history.
Approximately 40 students and seven chaperones headed for Washington, D.C., aboard two buses late Friday night, Jan. 18. Sixteen hours later they arrived in Washington, full of anticipation.
“I’m really into history and it seemed like a really cool opportunity to be able to see that in real life and be able to say that I’ve been there – it just seemed like the perfect thing to do,” said Parkway Central junior Lizzy Langa.
One of the high points for Langa was being able to see the U.S. monuments the night before the inauguration.
“They were just so beautiful and magnificent and we got to see the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial the night before Martin Luther King Day. … Really, it was just breathtaking,” she said.
The morning of the swearing-in ceremony, Langa described the atmosphere as buzzing with energy and excitement, but quieter than she expected.
“Everyone – all of the volunteers and everybody working there – was so nice,” Langa said.
For Parkway South junior Nathan Mahloch walking among the masses of people is a moment he will never forget.
“I liked walking up to the ceremony,” Mahloch said. “It’s just a great unity that you’re seeing here in this country – all different types of people coming together and it was fantastic, really.”
What also left a lasting impression on him was watching what he learned in the classroom come to life.
“The peaceful transfer of power from one presidency to another and the words that they used; all that’s written in the Constitution and it’s really interesting how it has survived through our history and it’s still part of it today.”
“We talked about it in my government class, and really we’re the only country that does it quite like we do,” Mahloch said.
For Langa, it was watching the inaugural prayer given by Myrlie Evers-Williams: civil rights activist and widow of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
Evers-Williams, former chairwoman for the NAACP, was also the first woman to deliver an invocation at a presidential inauguration.
“It was just so moving and special to be there – and just amazing to watch,” Langa said. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I just was riveted to the screen and couldn’t look away from it.”
Catherine Melvin, a junior at Parkway Central who had never been to any political event like this, was impressed by the massive crowds and how close they got, in terms of seeing everything.
“It was very passionate and just patriotic,” she said. “There was a lot of cheering and emotion; and excitement for being there.”
Asked what she enjoyed most, Melvin said everybody did a great job with their speeches his year.
“Of course, seeing Beyonce sing (even though it was later determined that she lip-synced) was a highlight,” she added.
With the trip to D.C. now behind them and not knowing what the next four or 40 years have in store, one thing is clear: the Parkway students who walked among the masses that day to witness the second inauguration of the president will forever be a part of American history.
“It’s just something that I will never forget – it’s one of my favorite trips that I’ve ever been on and it’s just so cool that I can be able to say that I was there,” Langa said.
What do they hope will happen during President Obama’s second term?
“I really hope we can get something done and agree on what’s best for the country,” Langa said. “I just hope they can have a plan; have a vision and to not have to worry about the future so much.”
“In general, more on the people’s part, for everyone to come together knowing that, even if it is a hard time, (Obama’s) going to do the best job he can,” Melvin said. “Less complaining and more like a work-together kind of attitude.”
[Editor's Note: To view more photos, visit the trip Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ParkwayInauguration2013.]