This year’s presidential inauguration will mark the fifth time Sharon Graves has taken a group of students to Washington, D.C., to experience the historic event, the Clark-Moores Middle School teacher said.
She took her first school group during President Bill Clinton’s second term.
Graves remembered the first time she visited D.C. with her 4-H club at age 16: “It’s the awe of seeing it in person and not on TV – you can just feel it.”
That is the type of experience she hopes to give her students, she said.
“Government” is a part of her eight-grade curriculum, she said. “You learn best when you’re putting all your senses into something. Those kids will come back with a better understanding of what I talk about in class.”
The group of 20 will leave at 8 p.m. Jan. 18 and will meet up with students from North Laurel High School. Once in D.C., a small group of students from Texas will fly in and join them.
All three groups will visit Arlington Cemetery, Ford’s Theater (where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated), the Smithsonian complex and “all the memorials,” Graves said.
Although President Barack Obama will take a private oath of office Sunday, Jan. 20, a public ceremony will not take place until Monday.
Since 1937, inaugural addresses have been given on Jan. 20 with only two exceptions – Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan each gave addresses on Monday, Jan. 21, Graves added.
From 1793 to 1933, inauguration addresses were given on March 4 with only four exceptions.
On the day of the inauguration, students will eat breakfast together at 5 a.m. and then embark on a 1-mile hike from their bus to the first security checkpoint.
During the 2009 ceremonies, the wind chill was -20 degrees, said Graves, so she will make sure students are wearing “at least three layers of clothes before they leave the hotel.”
So they can breeze through inauguration security, students may bring only a large plastic bag full of snacks and supplies, while Graves will keep a bag with extra provisions because they will be on the parade route from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The group had the option of standing on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol where the ceremony will take place, but the one time she chose that option, Graves said, “We were just looking at the back of people’s heads.”
Instead, the students will spend their time on the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, the teacher said, “where there’s enough entertainment with the snipers and the Secret Service – sometimes they’ve even had clowns.”
Everyone is given a small American flag on the parade route as well.
During the 2009 inauguration, Graves’ group coincidentally positioned themselves in front of a squad of Lexington police officers who had been asked to stand guard during the event.
They also were in the best spot to see President Obama and the first lady Michelle Obama walking alongside Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, during the parade, she said.
Although some may have concerns over the safety of the students, Pennsylvania Avenue is “probably the safest place you can be during the inauguration,” Graves said, with the various safety checkpoints and the hordes of security.
Graves opened up the trip to any county student who wanted to come, but with the price of the trip totaling $1,124 per child, only 16 eighth-graders, one freshman and one seventh-grader were able to go. Two parents also will accompany the group.
About 20 individuals and organizations donated enough money for four students to go on the trip, she said, but students are still selling candy bars to raise extra spending money.
A group of 10 from First Christian Church in Richmond will join five from First Christian Church in Lawrenceburg for the inauguration. They were able to secure tickets to the event through Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office, said Pam Grant, youth director at First Christian Church in Richmond.
The group will be touring Washington, D.C., Jan. 18-20 before attending the ceremony.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.
Support the trip
To make donations to the school trip or to purchase candy bars, contact
Sharon Graves at 624-4545.