Huddled together for warmth in front of the Capitol Building, seeing historical artifacts at the Smithsonian Museum, and meeting with students from George Mason University are just some of the fond memories UTC students will cherish from their trip to see the 57th Quadrennial Presidential Inauguration commemorating the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, in Washington D.C.

Photo Credit: Aubrian Watson

A group of more than 30 UTC students attended the “UTC to DC” trip. The trip was part of a learning opportunity about civic engagement and the political process. The idea for the trip was initially conceived by students who worked with UTC faculty and staff to make it a reality.

“Amazing. Life altering,” UTC student Bradley Bell joyously described the feeling of unity among a group of UTC students chosen to attend President Obama’s inauguration.  He also described the cultural thread that tied them to the greater community who attended.

“It wasn’t just white people and black people.  There was a person with a handmade American flag with a rainbow, to symbolize gay rights and how much President Obama has done.  Women were impacted by President Obama’s words.  So many people were moved by the many layers of his speech,” explained Bell, UTC Student Government Association President.

Bell observed the diverse group of UTC students who were selected for the trip made it fun.

“No one complained when the weather was wet, no one complained when we got lost.  We just laughed it off and went on.  It is awesome to be an American,” he said, smiling.

In addition to the rain, the students had to get up at 2 a.m. to ride public transportation on the day of the inauguration. They quickly pepped up when they arrived in the exciting atmosphere at the National Mall.

“The energy on the streets was so lively. Hundreds of thousands of people were walking and chanting, all excited to see this president inaugurated. We were walking toward the Capitol building at 4 a.m. and people were yelling ‘Two terms!’ at us as we went by. It didn’t matter that it was cold or that we had be woken up at 2:15 a.m. after getting maybe 4 hours of sleep, the city kept us alert and excited,”

UTC student Harlee Milligan, said.

For Milligan, seeing the inauguration in person brought up many emotions.

“The inauguration itself was a beautiful experience to have been apart of. Standing in that huge crowd with people screaming and waving flags, listening to our president’s words as he spoke to each and every one of us was a humbling experience. This trip affected me more than I ever imagined,” she said.

In addition to seeing the inauguration, students also visited many of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. Emily Corum, who visited the Smithsonian Museum, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, enjoyed the camaraderie she shared while visiting the sights with her fellow UTC students.

“I also met a ton of people from UTC that I might not have gotten the chance to know without this trip. Through meeting these very diverse people I learned about very different political perspectives and how we can all come together to celebrate the country and the president even if we all have different opinions and beliefs,” she said.

Hannah Lazar echoed Corum’s statements on meeting and connecting with her fellow students.

“On the trip, I got to bond with students I don’t get a chance to interact with very much in my regular life. It was cold and uncomfortable at the National Mall, but we all huddled together to keep each other warm. It didn’t matter what organization we belonged to, we all came together,” she said.

Lazar, who is editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The University Echo, appreciated the opportunity to report on an historical event.

“As a journalist, being able to cover a national event was a very unique experience. It was very powerful to see and experience with student leaders from all different organizations. I’m really glad UTC was able to make this trip happen,” she said.

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