Many have talked about the Pomp: the parties, the security and the money spent during the week of the Inauguration. But for twenty-eight Clearwater High School (CHS) students attending President Bush’s Inauguration, the time spent in Washington D.C. had greater meaning. To these young people, the atmosphere was one of, in stealing a quote from Chris Wallace of Fox News, “Pomp and Purpose.” Those interviewed spoke of the fun they had at the concerts, throwing snowballs on the Mall under the watchful eye of Abraham Lincoln, and spontaneous parties in their rooms. But they also talked of learning about government, and how they can have greater involvement in the democratic system. They also learned how to get along as a group under stressful situations such as long security lines, freezing weather, and a slow metro crowded with thousands of fellow tourists.
The students from Clearwater High, from freshman went to D.C. as part of the Close-Up Foundation Program, a six day trip designed to bring high school students “closer” to national government. These local students were part of a larger group, approximately 2,000, who lived together in ten hotels throughout the city, for Inauguration week. “Learning to live, four to a room, with kids from all over the country, was a big part of the experience to me,” explained Kalon Tew a CHS junior. “It wasn’t always easy, but it was fun!”
The young people involved with Close UP had a busy week with lectures and workshops in the morning and field trips to the House and Senate Buildings, the Lincoln, Vietnam and World War II Memorials and The Smithsonian Institute in the afternoon. Some of the students even sat through a small portion of the Committee hearings concerning Condoleeza Rice’s nomination for Secretary of State. Close Up held a mock debate, in which the students put questions to a liberal and conservative speaker on issues such as Social Security, abortion, gun control and the draft. The Close Up students attended two evening concerts “America’s Future Rocks Today,” and “The Ellipse Concert.”
Mike Bilirakis secured tickets, for the Clearwater High School students, for the Inauguration which was, as Max Duvoisin, a CHS sophomore, commented, “Really cool!” Max explained that, “We’ll be able to tell our kids we were there!” CHS sophomore Rusty Melges spoke of the incredible patriotism he felt while listening to the President’s address. They had studied previous, famous Inaugural addresses early in the week and Rusty explained that “I knew one part of this President’s comments that would also have historical significance: America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout the entire world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength-tested, but not weary-we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.” (From President Bush’s January 20, 2005 Inaugural Address) “You could hear the echo of each word and feel the crowd react,” stated Rusty. Kalon agreed and added, “You somehow knew, as the President finished the speech, that you were living in the world’s greatest Democracy.”
The question of excessive spending for the inauguration sparked different reactions amongst the CHS students. Senior Lance Burton did not think the opulent spending was, as he explained, “appropriate when there are more important issues the money should be spent on.” Junior Nicolette Nowak felt it very important to make the event historical, but not quite so lavish. “Perhaps,” she suggested, “The balls could have been fundraisers for the underprivileged throughout the world.” Max Duvoisin felt the Inauguration and the celebrations were worth the effort. He explained that, “The Inauguration brought significant revenues to D.C and the surrounding cities and also brought students and others from around the country together to celebrate Democracy in America.”
For Clearwater High students, the week was filled with fun and educational experiences, much “pomp and purpose,” and all agreed that they wanted to go back to D.C. and see all the things they missed this trip. But, as Kali deVlaming explained, “I’d love to go again, but maybe not with that many people in town.” It certainly sounds as if these young political activists will all return to D.C. in the future.
If you’d like to become involve or support the efforts of the Close Up Foundation you can call 1-800-closeup (256-7387) or explore their website: www.closeup.org.
The following is a patriotic and warming soup recipe from our nation’s capitol:
U.S. Senate Bean Soup (found in the “Joy of Cooking” Cookbook) Served in the U.S. Senate restaurant since 1901
Pick over and rinse the dried beans and soak for several hours. Drain and place in a soup pot with the cold water and ham hock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 ¼ hours. Remove the ham hock. Discard the bone, skin, and fat; dice the meat and return it to the pot. Add the onion, celery, potato, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer until the potatoes are quite soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher until the soup is a bit creamy. Stir in parsley and ladle into soup bowls.
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