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My Inaugural Experience

A couple of weeks ago, Oakwood University reported that one of its students, Nicole Frazier, had been selected to attend the Obama Inauguration as a University Presidential Inaugural Scholar.

This is her story.


Wow! That’s the only word I can think of to describe this amazing experience. I was blessed to be a University Presidential Inaugural Scholar for this 2009 Inauguration. The program was incredible and lasted five days. Five thousand university students were chosen to participate in this grand occasion from all over the world. The first night of the program, the Inaugural Scholars got the opportunity to meet and greet. There were so many different people and countries represented. Luke Russert, the late Tim Russert’s son and co-host of the show “60/20 Sports”, spoke on the power of youth.

All of the Inaugural Scholars were guests at state-of-the-art hotels. I stayed in the Omni Shoreham Hotel, which was phenomenal. On the second day of the program, we were guests at the University of Maryland where General Colin Powell spoke. His regal, yet down-to-earth presence shocked me. He greeted the crowd and began a very organized and interesting speech.

General Powell spoke on leadership and the keys to being an effective leader. He mentioned that good leaders possess several qualities. They have vision, which they translate into goals. They organize themselves by measuring their strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their opponents. They organize their forces, realize that they must sometimes make difficult decisions and that failure is probable, but a learning experience. He focused on one aspect of leadership—effective leaders understand that leadership is about followers.

After the lecture, we went to the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel for lectures. I attended the press panel where we got to ask a panel of journalists from the NY Times, NBC, ABC, and CNN questions. This was very informative, but I wish it was longer. I later went to a presentation by James Carville (Democratic Strategist/CNN) and his wife Mary Matalin (Republican Strategist/Former Presidential Adviser). This lecture was interesting and filled with many debates on issues like immigration, taxes, and youth community involvement.

After the headliner, the inaugural scholars headed toward the inaugural celebration on the National Mall. There were an estimated 1.4 million people in attendance. It was so crowded that people pressed together from the Lincoln Memorial past the reflection pool, the Veteran’s Memorial, all the way to the Capitol building. During the inaugural celebration, we enjoyed performances by John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, U2, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, Usher, and others.

On Monday, we were special guests at a presentation by Al Gore at the University of Maryland. I really thought he would be stiff, but he was interesting and full of humor. He spoke on global warming, politics, and how we can positively impact the environment. After Al Gore’s speech, we went to two more presentations of our choice. I went to a presentation by Jon Seaton (Managing Partner/East Meridian Strategies) and Sarah Simmons (Director of Strategy for McCain’s campaign) out of curiosity. Their presentations were informative. One of the most interesting presentations for me was that of Robert Pinsky (pictured), the former U.S. Poet Laureate. His presentation was on the power and significance of self-expression in a democracy. I was able to speak with him and get an autograph and picture.

Inauguration Day was spectacular. I will always cherish the memories of that day. Not only was I able to witness the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America, but I was able to experience and participate in the feelings of optimism and jubilation. The crowds were ecstatic. There was energy in the air and a sense of American pride that was intense and unimaginable. On inauguration day, I got up at 1 a.m. and headed for the metro station with some friends. As I stood in the bitter cold among the ecstatic crowds, my thoughts rushed to the significance of that joyous occasion. Not only was this occasion significant to me because I am African American, but it signified a change in American politics and the way of thinking, as well as the role of youth as vital elements of change. There were so many people that even though we arrived early, we were only able to watch the festivities on a jumbotron. Even though the crowd was pressed together, people weren’t concerned with the many differences we had such as nationality, race, religion, or political views. We were truly one. As the festivities proceeded, the crowd increased with energy and zeal, especially when President Obama spoke. When the festivities had commenced, the same warmth could be felt as everyone made their way back.

I scarcely had time to rest because the Black-Tie Gala was hours away. My roommate and I quickly rotated dominating the restroom and getting ready. Finally, we got into the bus and headed towards the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Traffic was so heavy that, although we left the hotel at 6:30 p.m., we didn’t arrive until 9:00 p.m. Most of the roads were blocked, and the total city was chaotic but exciting. My friends and I decided to go to the Hirshhorn first. There was music, food, and beautiful abstract artwork. The evening was spectacular. After spending some time in the Hirshhorn, we went to the Smithsonian where there was a live band, airplanes, naval equipment, and artwork. I enjoyed this experience and would not trade it for anything. The friendships I made were priceless.

As I reflect back on my experience in Washington D.C., the words of President Obama ring in my ear. “It’s not a liberal America or conservative America, but it’s the United States of America.” Truly, I am proud to be part of this great country. I hope that the new administration, along with us—the people of this great nation—will work hard to restore America. As a young adult, I vow to be a part of this restoration process. In the words of J.F. Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

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