A group of 45 Rosary students along with four faculty and staff members flew to Washington, D.C., for the second inauguration of our nation’s 44th President, Barack Obama. Upon arrival the group immediately headed to Capitol Hill where they toured the U.S. Capitol, including the gallery where Congress debates and votes and the president addresses the nation during his annual state of the union address. After lunch in Georgetown, the students then reported back to the hotel where they began their weeklong Close Up program.
Close Up is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes responsible and informed participation in the democratic process through a variety of learning experiences. Since 1971, Close Up has partnered with educators, school and youth organizations throughout the country to help young people develop the skills to become informed and engaged citizens. More than 740,000 students have participated in the program and this year’s group of Rosary students is now among those Close Up alumni.
Rosary students enjoyed learning about our government “close up” by visiting many of the significant memorials and monuments, listening to and participating in debates, and engaging in small group discussion. Students were very busy from morning until night participating in all of the activities Close Up has to offer including the National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19. All of the students attended mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University on Sunday, and then a reception at the Capitol Hill Club with Congressman Ed Royce and his wife, Marie, where they picked up their tickets for the inauguration. On Sunday afternoon, the students walked down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue to Federal Triangle where many of them were involved in a taping of the news program Channel One, an affiliate of CBS news.
The highlight of the trip though, was attending the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Students braved the cold and waking at 4:30 a.m. to ride the metro to the national mall where they watched the sunrise and then waited for the swearing in ceremony to begin. Students cheered and sang along to patriotic songs as the festivities kicked off. They proudly watched the president take the oath of office and then listened intently to his inspirational inaugural address. The students where also treated to performances by Kelly Clarkson, James Taylor, and Beyonce, among others. On the evening of the inauguration, students attended the Close Up Inaugural Ball at the Bethesda Marriott with more than 1,700 students from across the country.
The final night of the trip included a farewell banquet for all Close Up students and teachers where Tzuni Lopez ’13 was chosen to speak. After the banquet, the students once again danced the night away with their new friends from Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Illinois. Kina DeSantis ’13 said the experience was an opportunity for students to interact with others from different backgrounds, states, and political views, while also helping her to better understand our nation. “We gained a sense of pride,” she said. “Pride in our country and pride in our school.” So if you hear the Rosary seniors saying the pledge of allegiance with a little more enthusiasm and commitment these days, understand that they have experienced something that not many young people get to experience: a first hand look at our commitment to democracy and how that system works for all of us, close up.