Sonoma State students attend inauguration

January 20, 2009 4:18:54 PM PST
Ten Sonoma State University students obtained last-minute tickets to attend President Obama's inauguration Tuesday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Twelve Sonoma State students traveled to Washington last weekend to take part in a 10-day seminar that included lectures and tours at various Washington institutions and culminated with Inauguration Day.

Since the program does not offer tickets to the inaugural event, Professor David McCuan, who led the Sonoma State group, helped the students work any possible channel to get their hands on the coveted tickets.

In the end, 10 of the 12 participants managed to make their way to the National Mall to witness the event. While most of these students were 18 or 19 years old, the group did include some older college students.

Napa resident Aven Kampton said the group woke up at 3 a.m., when the wind chill read 8 degrees, to take the Metro in to the city and wait in line.

"We waited a long time, but it was worth it," she said of their vantage point to Obama's right, near the reflecting pool. "I'm on cloud nine."

Obama's speech, she said, hit upon the same themes Kampton addressed in a memo she had to write to receive course credit for the seminar. The mother of four, who is three units shy of graduating, said these themes included service, education and the environment.

"It's almost like he read my suggestions," she said.

Kampton did express surprise at the lax security measures administered to attendees.

"We weren't supposed to bring bags or umbrellas or anything like that," she said. However, most people brought food, chairs, umbrellas, bags and coolers, she said.

"They did not pat us down, they did not do anything," she said.

Kampton got in thanks to San Diego Congressman Ed Royce. One of her classmates appealed to his office as a constituent and received a pair of tickets.

McCuan said he encouraged his students to approach legislators from their home districts, especially Republicans.

Julie Norris of Novato waited in line Monday night for a last-minute drawing for tickets from a congressman from her native Alabama. Out of about 40 names in a hat, Norris won two tickets.

"I'm 40 years old, so I never thought I would be going on a college field trip to do something like this," she said. Norris is a junior studying political science.

Despite the cold, she said the inauguration "was almost like a block party without food and music."

She did regret the chorus of boos that greeted outgoing President George W. Bush.

"I felt they should be more respectful," she said of the crowd. "He's leaving anyway, so let it go."

Roughly 750 students across the country participated in the seminar, put on by the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. According to the organization's Web site, it enlarged the program from the usual 500 attendees due to the high volume of interest in Obama's inauguration.


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