By: Sophia Sportelli ‘19
Olivia Ojugbelli had an opportunity of a lifetime last January, attending the Presidential Inauguration. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.
Who did you attend the inauguration with?
“I was invited, by an organization called Envision, to attend a program which included witnessing the inauguration. On inauguration day, I was accompanied by hundreds of other students who also attended the program as well as by program faculty.”
What made you want to go?
“I decided to attend the inauguration because the program I was invited to included a variety of amazing opportunities. The program I attended was called the Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit. Throughout the duration of the program, I participated in a project called delegations for change, in which myself and a group of students proposed possible solutions to real life issues and all solutions were written in an essay format and delivered to Congress. Additionally, I was able to hear from a variety of speakers like Malala Yousafzai and General Colin Powell and many more. For me, the opportunity to attend the inauguration of our 45th president did not only present itself as a once in a lifetime experience, but as the icing on the cake.”
What did you like/ dislike about it?
“I think my favorite part of the inauguration was being able to see what such a momentous occasion is composed of. Personally, I have never been very involved in politics or government, so being able to see how much effort is put into inauguration day and witnessing the progression of the inauguration was very impressive to me. There was nothing that I disliked about the inauguration, however, there were some things that surprised me. For example, I didn’t know that prayers were read at the inauguration considering we have no national religion but there wasn’t anything I disliked.”
Who is the most memorable person you saw?
“Throughout the entirety of the program, I must say General Colin Powell would be the most memorable person I saw because he engaged the audience when he spoke and made it seem like he was talking to each person individually. On inauguration day, the most memorable people I saw would be the two presidential families because I found it interesting to see how the Obama family and Trump family joked around with each other as old friends while the rest of the world was waiting for history to be made.”
How close were you to the stage?
“Since the program consisted of hundreds of students and faculty members, I was not close to the stage, however, we were at the front of the no-ticket area so we got as close as we could. Despite being far away from the actual stage, there were numerous screens lining the crowd which allowed us to see everything that was going on.”
What was the highlight of your experience?
“I think the highlight of my experience would be seeing history being made. We all have events and people of the past that we would have loved to be a part of or to have met and I was fortunate enough to be there for this moment in history. It definitely makes me appreciate the experience because, in the future, when this inauguration is in textbooks and people are saying “oh, it must have been so cool to be there”, I’ll be able to turn to them and say yeah, it was pretty cool.”
What was the atmosphere of the crowd like?
“The atmosphere of the crowd was interesting. It definitely showed the divide present in America today. At times, half the crowd would be cheering for Trump, while the other half was silent and vice versa for Obama. Additionally, there were people with signs saying “Not My President” while other people wore head to toe Trump gear. I personally thought the crowd was very passionate, but very divided.”
What did you take away from your experience?
“I took a lot away from my experience at the inauguration and at the program in general. One major thing I took away was how to appreciate other people’s ideas and opinions even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. That message was really clear to me at the inauguration because there were people at the inauguration who vocalized opposite opinions and yet there were no fights and everything was peaceful. I think seeing that amount of respect at such a controversial event, really showed that all opinions can be respected at any time, and any place, and that respect isn’t always something we see in society today.”
What was the security like?
“The security was intense. I had a two mile walk to get to where I would be standing for the inauguration and I couldn’t walk 500 feet without seeing someone in uniform. There were conveys set up along the roads, K9 units blocking off roads, there were even some security personnel on horses. When we reached our security checkpoint, all bags were checked, and people were patted down. If someone had a bag that exceeded the size limit of 17x12x6, they were not allowed entry until the bag was either placed somewhere else or all contents were transferred into a smaller bag. While waiting for Trump’s speech, my friend counted 13 visible snipers but there could have been more that were well hidden.”
Did you enjoy going?
“I really enjoyed going. I feel like I learned a lot and was able to see things I normally don’t have the opportunity to see. In the end, I feel like I was fortunate enough to witness history and because of that I’m very grateful for the opportunity and the experience.”