My toes feel funny, my feet still hurt and at this point, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever fully recover from this amazing week. Physically I hope I do, emotionally I hope it stays with me forever. I’ve been in DC for almost 2 weeks now and the vibe is incredible still. I worked the Presidential Inaugural Conference with 800 other staff members, watching out for and facilitating activities for 15,000 high achieving scholars. That’s right, I said fifteen thousand! A highly ambitious number considering the biggest conference they’ve ever put on was for 2,000 students. It was chaos and crazy most of the time, not to say a little bit unorganized but that’s not what I’m here to go on and on about. I was apart of the inauguration festivities!! Not only did I get to go to the opening celebration concert and the actual inauguration, I also got to hear Colin Powell and Al Gore speak. It was all part of the conference activities. While discussing with the students what they thought of the two speakers, the general consensus was that Al Gore was a little boring (which isn’t a surprising observation) and Colin Powell was inspiring. I won’t argue with that – Colin Powell was amazing but I was still happy to hear from Al Gore, even it he’s not the most dynamic speaker out there. There were also smaller sessions with Mary Matalin and James Carville as well as Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, but I only got to hear Mary & James.
The best part of course was the actual Inauguration. There were a lot of students that were really upset because they thought we were going to have actual tickets. No dice but that didn’t bother me at all – who cares when just being there apart of this amazing historical event was enough. In order to ensure that we could get good spots, a group of us left at 4:30 am – it was advised that we walk instead of take the metro. Good advice and a great way to keep us toasty for the early morning 20 degree weather. Our hotel was about 2.5 miles away and we were able to get good spots fairly close to the Capital building, which we found at around 5:30 am. We then proceeded to stand and freeze for the next 6 hours until the ceremony actually started. We were told that you couldn’t bring bags or food onto the mall, so we didn’t. Evidently, those instructions were for the ticketed areas only and we could have brought blankets and whatever we wanted! We toughed it out and when the ceremony was over, started the trek back to the hotel. That was an adventure in itself as we kept having to double back and find a route that actually led us across Independence Ave and around the parade route which was blocked off at that point. We figured it out eventually and made it back to the hotel by 3:30pm. Needless to say we were exhausted from being on our feet for 11 hours and starving since we had consisted on only a few granola bars, mini Snickers and a mini bottle of water that I rationed with my new friends Scotty and Alan. All of this made the day adventurous but to hear Barack Obama give his speech once he was sworn in as the President just made the day what it was – historical and amazing. Bearing witness to a peaceful transition of power and knowing that my country elected this man that is bringing about change in so many good ways, it really does make me proud to say I’m from America.
I’m still on a high and recovering from all the amazing events – we had a gala that evening for our students at the Air and Space Museum (sans alcohol since we had underage students) and then some friends and I decided to continue the celebration and take advantage of the bars that stayed open till 4 am that night. Eric and I rallied, stayed up till our 5 am shift and showed up wearing our formal wear. Although I won’t lie, by 7:30 am I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Seriously, I was nodding off the second my eyes blinked! The students left the following day and we had another fun filled night at the Hirshorn Museum where our staff party was held – open bar! It was a great way to end the crazy conference week and celebrate with all the new friends that I made. We went out with a bang, no doubt about it. It will be a long time before I wear 3 inch heels again – my poor toes are still recovering!