Students head to capital for Obama Inauguration



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Workers put the finishing touches on the west side of the U.S. Capitol on Monday morning in Washington. An estimated one to two million people will fill the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall. James Brosher Buy Photos

WASHINGTON – Visitors had been trickling into junior Christen Gallagher’s new hometown for about a week.

But Saturday morning, the streets filled up with charter buses, and that’s when she knew the inauguration had hit.

Several of the charter buses that Gallagher – who is spending the semester interning with the economic think tank The Council on Competitiveness – saw carried IU students and faculty members, some with tickets to the ceremony and many without them.

IU President Michael McRobbie is in Washington for the event, said IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre. He plans to attend today’s swearing-in ceremony and was scheduled
to be at the Indiana Society of Washington, D.C. Inaugural Ball on Monday night.
IU’s Singing Hoosiers performed at the ball for about an hour and a half.
Many students made the 600-mile trip to the capital without tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. They planned to find a place to sit or stand on the National Mall and watch the ceremony on giant TVs.

Susan Johnson, who earned a doctorate from IU in 2007, traveled to the city with the graduate chapter of IU’s Zeta Phi Beta. She said some of the people she traveled with – community members, members of a local church and people affiliated with the sorority – had passes, but she did not mind having to watch from the Mall.

“Just to be a part of a moment of history, just to say that you were there – that’s good enough for me,” Johnson said.

Sophomore Claudia Torres, who traveled with a group from Foster International Living-
Learning Center, also does not have tickets and will watch from the National Mall this morning. Though junior Nolan Meyer started planning the group’s trip in May, Torres said she decided to go “on a whim.”

The group brought 10 Foster residents, who were selected through an essay contest.
They tried to get tickets through a Congressman but had to go without them.
Torres isn’t worried about not having a ticket, and she said so far the trip has not disappointed her.

“Pretty much you knew it was going to live up to the expectations,” Torres said. “No question about it.”

Freshman Margaret Bishop, who traveled with the Foster group, said she’s already picked up on an excited atmosphere from traveling the city this weekend and attending Sunday’s inauguration concert.

To get a better view of the show. Bishop saw concert-goers sitting on top of portable toilets that were caving in.

“People are politically active again,” she said. “As Barack Obama was just bopping his head to the music, you could tell people were just loving it.”

Sophomore Suzanne Diebold, Gallagher’s roommate who is interning at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, happened to be at the train station when Obama arrived from Pennsylvania on Saturday. She did not realize he was going to be there, and what she found were throngs of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the
soon-to-be president.

“It was really crowded,” Diebold said. “Like, Obama everything – sweatshirts, scarves, hats, pins.”

Gallagher said that as the inauguration has approached, the event has even permeated into everyday merchandise and menu items. She has not tried an Obama burger or InaugurAle, but she hopes to pick up an Obama cupcake from Georgetown.

Most of the travelers will get up much earlier than is acceptable for many college students to either ride a likely-packed Metro or walk to the Mall to find their seats in time to watch the ceremony at 11:30 a.m. If it’s anything like the concert the Foster travelers went to, personal space will be at a premium.

“You look up toward the Washington Monument and it’s just a blanket of people,” Bishop said. “You can’t even see the individuals.”

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