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A Visit to Washington: Students at Inauguration

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 02:01


Sydney Jill Watnick


Sarah Marnell


Jon Green


On Monday, Jan. 21, several Kenyon students witnessed  history when they attended the Presidential Inauguration. Here, three students reflect about their experiences in Washington, D.C.


Sydney Watnick ’14

Vice President of Kenyon Dems

Thus far at Kenyon, the work that I have done with Kenyon Democrats, Knox County Democrats and Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has been my most rewarding experience. Immersing myself in the on-the-ground campaign life this fall, I learned just how important Ohio really is in national politics and how important (and valuable) my peers’ contributions could be in deciding the fate of the 2012 election. I saw students from all areas of Kenyon’s diverse student life help out, because there was just so much at stake — so much we could lose. For me, the Inaugural Ball and Inauguration events that I attended were an added bonus to the rewards that helping re-elect President Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown will bring my peers and me in the coming years. I was so excited to be in D.C. surrounded by others who had shared similar experiences this fall. Looking around at the masses of people at the swearing-in ceremony on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21, I realized every person there had a story for why he or she was attending this milestone event. I urge everyone to attend a presidential inauguration at some point in his or her life. It’s one of our nation’s most exciting and long-lasting traditions. 


Sarah Marnell ’13

President of Kenyon Dems

Our five-day trip to D.C. was an absolute whirlwind. During the last few days prior to the election, we were fortunate to have the help of the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement for the White House, Ronnie Cho. Thanks to him, we were able to get tickets to the swearing-in ceremony and to the ball. I was at President Obama’s Inauguration in 2009 as well, with the pastor from my church and his wife and two young daughters. The best part about attending an inauguration isn’t seeing a president sworn in, because, honestly, if you really want to see it, you’ll stay home and watch it on TV. It’s the feeling in the crowd: the sense of unity and excitement and accomplishment. 

It was a very cold, early morning, but I didn’t encounter one angry person (maybe with the exception of some police officers). People were laughing and joking and sharing their stories and what this day meant to them. For me, the best part of the trip was being part of a crowd of one million-plus who were just as overjoyed to be there as we were. It was watching my president be sworn in with the people who worked so hard to help him get there. The ball was amazing and the parties were great. Seeing famous congressmen and senators and the like left me star-struck, but nothing can overshadow standing in front of the Capitol, hearing President Obama say those 35 crucial words. It might be corny, but I’m still fired up and ready to go.


Jon Green ’14

Worked as a Deputy Regional Field Director for OFA

I looked in the mirror of the Union Station bathroom while brushing my teeth at nine in the morning last Wednesday, and all I could say to myself was, “Wow.” 

On the heels of easily the wildest week I could have ever hoped for, having on the one hand slept in four different places in five nights and consistently having gone more than 24 hours between showers, but on the other hand having stumbled into the swankiest of situations ranging from the illustrious Cosmos Club on Saturday to the West Wing of the White House on Sunday to the staff-only Inaugural Ball on Tuesday I felt overwhelmed by the completeness of my experience. Did I mention that I went to the swearing-in on Monday as well?

I’m not a crowd person. I went to New York for New Year’s this year and intentionally went to Times Square on the night of the 30th instead of on the night of the 31st. But certain situations call for sucking it up and waiting in a large crowd; if ever there was a time to do so, it was this year’s Inauguration. 

Having spent last summer and fall working to put Barack Obama on that stage, I found it necessary to see that work come to a head. 

While I couldn’t see the stage itself (I could sort of see half of the Jumbotron through some tree branches) and the president’s words would have been much clearer had I been sitting on a couch in Peirce Pub, watching his speech on TV, the real reason for my going was to be able to look up at the Capitol with the knowledge that I was part of something larger than myself.

Now that I’m back, I’m definitely ready to slow down, sleep for more than four hours in a night and go to a party where I won’t stumble upon the Deputy White House Chief of Staff. But I’ll be framing my tickets and looking back nostalgically at that one time I played hooky for a few days and saw my president become president again.

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