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Government, Politics & Issues

U. City students 'electrified' by Obama's inaugural speech

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 21, 2013 - WASHINGTON – After an exciting weekend of touring Washington’s monuments, 26 students from University City High School were “electrified” Monday when they witnessed the inaugural ceremony and President Barack Obama’s address at the U.S. Capitol.

“We were very close, with a great view. The students were extremely impressed by the ceremony and were electrified by the president’s speech,” said the high school’s principal, Michael Maclin, one of 9 adults who accompanied the students.

“It was overwhelming, seeing the huge crowd and all the security we had to go through to get near the Capitol,” said senior Abby Mutrux, 17. “The Capitol was beautiful, with all the flags flying and the senators and cabinet members sitting in front."

The weather was cold and cloudy when the students arrived at their standing-room spots near the Capitol, but they were in high spirits when they saw the size of the crowd and witnessed the grand ceremony of the inauguration.

“It was really neat the way they incorporated different forms of art, like music and poetry and prayer, to the whole inauguration ceremony,” Mutrux told the Beacon afterwards. “And everyone really got into Obama’s speech.”

Having seen the president before only on television, Ballard observed Monday that Obama “is much more impressive when you see him speak in person. He has broadened his horizons over the past four years. He’s working to make the world a better place.”

The University City students, each of whom had competed in an essay contest to win a slot in the Inauguration trip, spent the weekend visiting the Capitol, various memorials and other sites in Washington.

After the inaugural ceremony, the group walked three miles from the Capitol to RFK Stadium to board a bus to the airport, where they later caught a flight home to St. Louis.

They will be back in school Tuesday, and Maclin said they would take part in a “community forum” later this month to discuss their impressions of the inauguration and its meaning to their lives.

While the U. City kids missed the inaugural parade, another group of St. Louisans – members of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) – were preparing to march in Division Three of the parade. Members of the 200-player band, wearing purple-over-black uniforms, had drilled on a Baltimore street over the weekend,

Also marching was the Liberty North High School band, from Liberty, Mo. And Illinois groups -- given prime parade positions because they are from Obama's home state (after Hawaii) -- included Chicago’s South Shore Drill Team and the Illinois “home state” float.

Many of lawmakers from Missouri and Illinois got prime seats on the Capitol steps during the lengthy inauguration ceremony. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was spotted snapping photos of his friend Obama taking the oath of office.

Read the Beacon's earlier story below:

WASHINGTON - The bunting is in place, the Capitol stage is set, security is in place and inaugural souvenirs are selling like hotcakes as the nation’s capital prepares for Monday’s second inaugural of President Barack Obama.

It won't draw quite the crowd as his historic first swearing-in, but hundreds of thousands of supporters – including many from Missouri and Illinois – were heading to Washington for the inaugural and related festivities.

“We’ve had hundreds of requests. I had to go ask some of my Republican colleagues if they had any extra tickets to try to fulfill our requests,” said U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, who was able to get 50 extra tickets but still had to distribute tickets by means of a lottery. He’ll be sitting with other members of Congress near the Capitol.

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In all, lawmakers and other government officials handed out about 250,000 tickets for the inauguration, with each U.S. House member given 20 tickets for seats and another 150 tickets for standing areas near the Capitol.

Among the groups traveling from St. Louis are 26 University City High School students who got tickets from the office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Their school staged a fund-raising campaign to cover most of the expenses for the students, who won an essay contest.

"We're here and we're already touring," U. City Principal Michael Maclin -- who accompanied the students -- said Friday. They toured the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments on the Mall, he said, and planned to continue touring all weekend.

Even though the president is a Democrat, the offices of some congressional Republicans stayed open this weekend to distribute inauguration tickets. Tweeted U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.: "So many Missourians coming by to pick up inauguration tickets today. Cyeria Jackson and her family came from STL."

In general, GOP House members from outstate didn't get as many ticket requests as they did four years ago for Obama's first inaugural, when the excitement was at a higher pitch. An estimated 1.8 million people crowded into the National Mall and along the parade route for that event; this time, experts are guessing the crowd to be about half that number.

Ticket-holders get better spots, but visitors don’t need a ticket to find a place to stand or sit farther back on the Mall and watch the proceedings on giant video screens that are set up at numerous spots. The official swearing-in ceremonies for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were held Sunday, but they will repeat the oaths for Monday's crowd.

While there will be only two official inaugural balls on Monday night, some Missouri Democrats are holding a gala on Sunday and the Illinois State Society staged a inaugural dinner-dance at a Washington hotel.

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