The opportunity to see history being made is something that many of us only dream of experiencing. But for nineteen Union High School students and three chaperones, this dream became a reality when they traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration of President Obama.
The group departed from the Eastern Iowa Airport on January 20th and returned January 23rd. The students raised the money for the trip through a series of fundraising events. This was the first time that Union High School students have made a trip to Washington, D.C. Dean Bostian, History teacher at Union High School, was influential in organizing the trip.
According to the students, the trip was fun and filled with history. The first full day in Washington, D.C. was largely filled with witnessing the inauguration. The group braved freezing temperatures to stand outside for hours to see history unfold. They were about 3/4 of a mile from where President Obama stood, but they could see everything on a Jumbotron.
Union students at the Capitol Building during their recent trip to D.C. included, lying in front: Drake Rousselow. Front row: Sarah Ternus, Katie King, Morgan Metcalf, Jade Handley, Cassie Christian. Second row: Sophie Thomsen, Ted Tecklenburg, Ellie Even, Brenna Allen, Lauren Barz, Raini Hilmer, Sammy North, Jena Boisen. Third row: Jared Frost, Alex Bear, Austin Lee, Cody Rutledge, Joel Wauters. Present but not pictured were: Chaperones Dean Bostian, Jen Gassman, and Jim Barz. Be sure to check out more photos of the trip in this week's print issue of the Dysart Reporter!
The students described the atmosphere as being like they were at a concert. Excitement was in the air and some students even described it as being like a revival where the audience would shout "amen" or agreements to parts of President Obama's speech. The experience was unlike anything they had ever witnessed before.
"There were people decked out with Obama gear from head to toe. They were decked out in Obama head bands, scarves, gloves, buttons, and signs. You would have thought the election was still happening," remarked Jen Gassman, Media Specialist at Union High School and chaperone on the trip.
Everyone in the crowd seemed to be in anticipation for Beyonce's performance. The students could not tell that she was lip syncing during her performance, despite the extensive discussions post-inauguration. After miles of walking and standing outside in the cold, the students were exhausted at the end of inauguration day.
During the course of the trip, the group visited numerous landmarks and museums including: Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Ford's Theater, Petersen House, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the White House, Smithsonian Museums, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. None of the students had visited Washington, D.C. prior to the trip.
The trip was influential to all of the students in some way. But to student Joel Wauters, the experience caused him to consider going into politics someday.
"We talk current events in my class every day and they know what's happening in our world and our government. I think a lot of the students see what the problems are in our government and they want to change them to make our country better," said Bostian, in reference to Wauters's consideration of a political career.
The students were fascinated with the mummies, dinosaurs, and the First Ladies' dresses at the museums. Tour guides told stories of the horrors of 9/11. The students remarked with awe about the Changing of the Guard. They were touched by witnessing a Jewish man tearfully tell his son about the history of the Holocaust. For many students, the most memorable part of the trip, besides the inauguration itself, was visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"It makes you appreciate a lot of things. Especially, going to the Holocaust Museum and seeing how bad they had it. And then you come back here and you can eat whenever you want to and you don't have to worry about where your shoes are going to come from," said student Sophie Thomsen.
"When we got through the Holocaust Museum everyone had a somber look on their face. They had read Night, seen Schindler's List and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but this was just a whole different level of understanding of that time period," said Bostian.
The trip to Washington, D.C. is one that the students will never forget. As Bostian puts it, "the kids were totally floored by the magnitude of it all". It was an experience that opened their eyes a little wider to the world around them and showed them how much they have to be thankful for.
Bostian hopes to make this a bi-annual trip for UHS juniors and seniors and is appreciative to the support he received from the Union School District in planning this trip.