SIPA student Kelly Heindel had a chance to participate in inauguration activities and I asked her to compose an entry for us. I am grateful she accepted. You can find out more about Kelly by visiting her interview page.
During the recent inauguration of President Barack Obama, I worked as a faculty advisor for the University Presidential Inaugural Conference (UPIC). UPIC is one of numerous educational leadership conferences put on by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council (CYLC). The students chosen for these conferences have excelled academically and have demonstrated leadership skills throughout their college careers. The students came from all over the United States and internationally as well. In total, there were 5,000 university students participating in the conference. UPIC was designed as a week-long event to celebrate the historic inauguration and allow for the students to have direct participation in many of the events. As a faculty advisor, I was charged with many logistical tasks (UPIC used over 75 buses to transport the students throughout the DC area) and as a point of contact for students.
The conference had many speakers, seminars, and panel discussions in the days preceding the inauguration. Colin Powell and Al Gore were the keynote speakers. Both men gave their specific ideas of what it means to be a leader, and what is expected of the upcoming generation in terms of leadership. Colin Powell spoke of discipline and planning as important characteristics for a leader, not surprising considering his military background. While Al Gore took a more fatherly approach with the students simply saying, “The happiest and most fulfilled people I know have dedicated their lives to something bigger than themselves.”
The morning of the inauguration, I took a group of students down to the national mall at 4am. We were surprised by how empty the streets were and we were able to get a spot fairly close to the capital. Waiting for the inauguration to begin was definitely the most difficult part of the week. It was freezing and dark out, and there was nothing to do but wait. Soon, they began replaying the Lincoln Memorial concert from the previous Sunday and the crowd began dancing and singing to keep warm. Then the ceremony began. The energy and passion of all the people in the crowd was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was truly inspiring to see people of all ages, races, and creeds being genuinely excited about our new administration and hopeful about our future.