I took a deep breath of crisp, cool air as I stepped out of the Dulles Airport and into the Washington D.C. night. The light atmosphere felt liberating compared to the stifling humidity I had left in Florida only a few hours ago. Feeling refreshed, I boarded the bus along with twenty other teens from around the world. This is my beginning to a week-long program designed to connect students from around the globe with the goal of helping them to share cultural experiences. This specific forum focused on Washington D.C. and was specially held in honor of a major moment in American history: President Obama’s inauguration.
Honorable Mention 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
The night before, I had sprained my ankle in the last few seconds of my soccer game. At first, I cringed at the idea of hobbling my way through D.C. However, I knew an opportunity like this was rare and that I had to make the best of it. The city bustled as thousands of Americans flocked to their capital, charging D.C. with patriotic energy. Along with these fellow Americans, our group visited the memorials, monuments, and museums over the week. For me, the air of importance at each place was elevated. Even though I had visited these places before, this time seemed different. With a major historical moment only a few days away, history seemed more tangible. Since I was about to experience my own bit of history in the very near future, it was easier to imagine and understand the moments that we studied from the past. The focus on our nation’s past only intensified my excitement for our future. I was thrilled that I would be a part of the crowd welcoming the change championed by Obama into our nation.
My favorite moment during the trip was the night before the inauguration. As our last stop on the tour, we visited the Lincoln Memorial. After hobbling my way up what seemed like thousands of steps, I paused at the top to look back towards the Capitol building. The view was breathtaking. The sky was a fiery orange and the reflecting pool sparkled as the last rays before sunset dazzled across the water. Behind me sat a larger than life 19 foot President Lincoln. This man was arguably one of the best leaders for change, exemplified through the Emancipation Proclamation and his leadership in the Civil War. Meanwhile, ahead of me loomed the Capitol building where another man would assume leadership of this nation tomorrow with a similar hope for change. Chills jolted through my body as these thoughts crossed my mind. After returning to the hotel, my feelings of optimism had not dissipated. As I settled into bed, I hoped that tomorrow would mark the continuation of constructive changes for our country, similar to those implemented under the leadership of President Lincoln.
Finally, the moment had arrived. After a 4 a.m. wake up call and a walk in freezing weather (which to a Floridian like myself felt like sub-zero temperatures), our group found our place among thousands of others on the National Mall. In patriotic unity, the whole nation stood at attention as Senator Obama was sworn into his new role as our President. As he uttered his final words of promise, the city erupted with a cheer. Whether or not this president would live up to his motto of change, whether or not he failed or succeeded in the future, at this moment in history, he had succeeded in uniting a city. At this moment, he had given me an unparalleled feeling that he could unite a nation.
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