Students from area travel to D.C. for ceremony

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha Obama and Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, walk to the presidential reviewing stand Monday in front of the White House in Washingto, D.C. Thousands marched during the 57th Presidential Inauguration parade after the ceremonial swearing-in.

Robert Toney isn’t exactly keen on the process that culminated Monday with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but he liked the result.

Toney, 16, a student at Clifton Christian Community School, attended the inauguration with classmates, witnessing the event from a distance in front of the Capitol.

“I kind of avoid politics,” Toney said in a telephone interview. The ceremony, however, “was beautiful. It’s something I can remember for the rest of my life. I can say I was there, not just that I watched it on TV. I was actually there.”

Toney and his classmates got up about 4:30 a.m. Monday and grabbed breakfast before boarding a bus from Virginia into Washington, D.C., to view the inauguration.

For Cindy Lee, 14, the inauguration offered a glimpse at a possible future.

“I always had the aspiration to be the first female president,” Lee said, noting that the sight of Obama being sworn in was a reminder that there is still the challenge of getting a woman into the White House.

Colin Jackson, 14, said the president’s reference to how his tenure would be viewed in 400 years struck a chord.

His family has been struggling, and he’s seen his 18-year-old brother work to find a job, Jackson said.

“When I become old enough, I’d like it to be easier,” Jackson said. “I’d like to support myself.”

As to whether the president shares that value, “I guess time will tell,” Jackson said.

Coming from a diverse family, Glenwood Springs High School junior Lars Kuhlmann-Courtwright cherished hearing in person President Obama’s message of diversity.

Kuhlmann-Courtwright was one of six Glenwood High students who joined teacher Mike Schneiter in attending the ceremony.

“(Obama’s) inaugural address, I’m definitely going to remember that; it was really cool,” Kuhlmann-Courtwright said.

“I think really the part that really got me, he was basically telling us that all people are equal regardless of gender or race or income,” he said.

Kuhlmann-Courtwright said his family includes gays and a stepgrandfather who was one of the first African-Americans to serve in the Navy, having fought in World War II, so he appreciated Obama’s message that race and gender don’t matter.

“I suppose that to me it’s really important because it’s a huge part of my family,” he said.

That message further resonated with Monday being Martin Luther King Day, and this year being the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by King and other civil rights activists, and the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, he said.

Schneiter teaches courses including Fundamentals of American Democracy at Glenwood High.

Schneiter said being part of an energetic, emotional, flag-waving crowd made it worth it, just like going to a football game in person even though it might be easier to watch on TV at home.

“Being in the stadium with all that energy, it’s hard to beat, and that’s kind of like what it was like” Monday, he said.

The students weren’t the only western Colorado residents at the inauguration.

Pete Kolbenschlag of Paonia, who runs an environmental consulting business, said he was pleased to hear Obama “lay out a more ambitious agenda for his second term on some issues I’m sorry he didn’t mention four years ago,” including climate change, gay marriage and immigration reform.

“All three are big courageous things because they’re all very contentious,” Kolbenschlag said.


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