Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of local students and teachers seemed to have similar impressions from their experience attending the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. “It was just amazing. I couldn't believe I was there,” said Havre High School junior Courtney Kinholt. The group attended the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, Jan. 20 in Washington. The group including Kinholt, Havre High School history teacher John Ita and his daughter, junior Abigail Ita, Havre High junior Jessica Howland, Havre High senior Trevor Staples, Havre High graduate and University of Montana student Ryan Kinholt, Big Sandy seventh-grader Michelle Maxwell and her mother, Lis Maxwell. Ita started planning for the trip last spring. They flew out of Great Falls Sunday, Jan. 18, and boarded the plane to return on Wednesday, Jan. 21, after a whirlwind tour of the sites of Washington and the inauguration. John Ita said the trip seemed to have a major impact on both the students and the adults. “It was huge,” he said. “The kids didn’t know a whole lot about it they didn’t know what to expect,” he said. Ita said the trip and events the group attended impressed him as well. “It’s cool to be a part of history,” Ita added. Jessica Howland said it was impressive to be part of such a huge gathering the Washington Post reported security sources to say 1.8 million from around the world attended as well as listening to Obama be sworn in and make his speech. He was a good speaker, she said. “I think it will be really interesting to see how much he said he wants to do actually happens in the next four years,” Howland added. Courtney Kinholt echoed Howland. “I just want to see how this turns out,” she said. “I want to see if he can make a change and get the troops out and turn the economy around.” Abigail Ita said just being at the event, around so many people, was an amazing experience. At one point, several African-Americans joined their group, and ended up dancing with them, she said. “They were teaching us the Electric Slide, ” Ita said. “It was kind of like an endless traffic of people. You never saw the same person twice,” she added. Ita said she was not a supporter of Obama during the election, and also said she had not really paid that much attention to the election and politics. Now, she said, she thinks she will, especially as she gets older and can be directly involved in the election process and shape her government. The trip helped increase that desire. “It kind of sparked history for Me,” Ita said. Trevor Staples said he was a supporter of Obama during the election and has always planned to vote after he turns 18, which happens next month. Still, he said, the most impressive thing about the trip was actually seeing Obama standing and speaking 120 yards away Staples said. The rest of the trip also left a deep impression, the students said, seeing many memorials and historic sites in Washington in their whirlwind trip. The timing was tight the group toured Monday, including going to the office of Sen. Jon Tester to pick up their tickets for the inauguration, then got up at 4 a.m. to prepare for the inauguration itself. The group stood in line from about 6:30 a.m. to about 10 or 10:30 while going through security. “It was pretty tight,” John Ita said, although he added that the crowd was relatively calm during the inauguration he saw no disturbances, no riots. He added that he wanted the students to see more than just the inauguration and the sites he wanted them to see the people around them as well. “I told the kids to look around, see what people are experiencing,” Ita said. He added that many at the inauguration seemed to be trying to share the experience with their deceased parents and grandparents one man was wearing the fedora worn by his grandfather during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech. “He wanted to make sure the experience was shared by his grandfather,” Ita said. The Havre students also were impressed with the sites and memorials of Washington, with a common high point being the war memorials, a majority saying especially the Korean War Veterans National Memorial. Howland said the memorials had a major impact on her. “It was incredible to see the memorials for each war,” she said. “It makes you think about the people who paid the price for our freedom.” Kinholt agreed, saying the Korean War memorial probably had the greatest impact on her. She said the statue at the memorial was the high point. “It felt like they were actually fighting right there in front of you,” she said. “The pain in their faces, you could see what they were going through.” The group members said the trip brought home the importance of following the news and politics and elections of the nation. John Ita said Obama’s inauguration was the first he had attended. “It won’t be my last,” he added.