By Casey Peeks, 17, Marlborough School
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Casey's trip to D.C. inspired her to maybe pursue a career in politics.

I was lucky enough to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington D.C. The inauguration itself was inspirational and exciting, but the entire weekend was unforgettable.

One of the first things I got to do once I got to Washington D.C. early Sunday morning was attend a luncheon with my mom and some of her friends. The luncheon was celebrating all the Democratic women who had been elected to national or state government offices. I wasn’t very excited about it because I had just spent a sleepless night on an airplane, but the luncheon turned out to be the highlight of my trip because I got to talk to Hillary Clinton and all the women who got elected were really inspirational.

Casey's (right) first stop in D.C. was the Capitol. She's pictured here with her mom and mom's friend.
Photo by a Capitol police officer

Hearing their stories, I realized how much influence women have in politics. One woman, Beverly Purdue, was the first Democratic female governor of a Southern state. She said her campaign strategy was going out and talking to the citizens of North Carolina instead of giving speeches to large crowds. She said that on her first day as governor she had an open house at the governor’s estate so the people could come and meet her and talk to her. I thought that was cool.

By the end of the luncheon the fact that I had not slept in more than 24 hours was starting to wear on me. I was excited to hear Clinton speak but I couldn’t stop yawning and all I wanted to do was fall asleep. But when she walked on stage, I definitely woke up. The audience went crazy with cheering and shouting, and camera flashes were going off. I was in awe sitting at the closest table to the stage as Clinton gave her speech. She talked about how important it is to have women in government, and how amazing it was that all these women had been elected into office in the past year. Then she went on to talk about how great it was that America had elected its first African-American president. She discussed how excited she was to work with Obama as secretary of state. I have always been interested in politics, but hearing all these influential women speak and the fact that Washington D.C., the hub of politics, was so energized inspired me to possibly pursue a career in politics.

After Clinton’s speech, everyone got ready to leave. As I waited for my mother, I got the chance to talk to Clinton, one of the most influential women in politics!

I saw Clinton walk by surrounded by four secret service men in black suits. As she passed me she smiled and said, “Hi, how are you?” Once I got over the shock that Hillary Clinton had just spoken to me I smiled back and said, “Hi, I’m good, I really enjoyed your speech.” She replied back with a “thank you very much.” Although our conversation was brief, speaking with Clinton was the best part of my trip to D.C., including Inauguration Day itself. When I would see her on TV, it didn’t feel like she was a real person. When I got to meet her, I realized all the amazing things she’s done and how great a role model she is. She was hugging a lot of people when she left and she was friendly, even though on TV she seems cold and not very personable.             

Casey's smile says it all.
Photo by Casey's mom

Inauguration Day was fun and exciting too, in its own way. Washington D.C. was utter chaos. I visit Washington D.C. about two times a year because my mother’s side of the family lives in the area, but the amount of people and energy that the city had that day was unlike anything I have ever seen. The city had “Obama-mania.” Everywhere I went there were signs with Obama’s face on it (even in the airport), street vendors selling Obama shirts and buttons, and even the Metro had special tickets made for that weekend with Obama’s face on them.

I spent Inauguration Day at the Newseum, a museum about news and journalism. I had to walk about 3.5 miles from the Roosevelt Bridge, where we had gotten dropped off that morning, to get there. To control the crowds, throughout the city there were roadblocks where people couldn’t pass by, so a walk that should have taken about one hour turned into a three-hour journey of navigating a city with about two million other people. There were so many people that at times I felt like I wasn’t controlling my movements and was just moving with the crowds. At one point we could see the Newseum and it was only about a block away, but the police directed us in the opposite direction. It was so frustrating being able to see our destination, and then getting redirected five blocks in the opposite direction. Although roadblock after roadblock got annoying, the chaos of it all was somewhat adventurous.

I was relieved to finally be inside the Newseum and out of the 20-degree weather. The Newseum had a Jumbotron and a big theater screen to watch the inauguration. Although I watched the inauguration from a screen just like people here in Los Angeles, the energy of Washington D.C. was irreplaceable. There were Americans but also people from other countries. I thought that was cool that people from other countries would come to see our president get inaugurated. It showed that is wasn’t just a big deal for the United States but that people around the world cared. Everyone had Obama pins and American flags. Once Obama was sworn in, everyone in the Newseum started cheering and chanting “Obama!” and many were crying. I was just in awe because his speeches are always so captivating. They make me proud to be an American. Once Bush’s helicopter flew over the building as he left Washington, people started cheering and one woman even shouted “We are finally free!”

Casey caught a glimpse of Obama's daughters inside the limo during the parade.
Photo by Casey Peeks, 17, Marlborough School

The Newseum was along the parade route, so I got a perfect view of the parade. When the motorcade came by with the Obama family’s limo, I got really excited. I could see his daughters waving at the crowd through the limo. At this moment, when he passed by on his way to the White House, it finally sank in that Barack Obama was president of the United States. My eyes started to tear. Throughout the campaign and the trip my mom had been telling me that she never dreamed that there would be an African-American as president during her lifetime. To see how far this country had come since the segregated times of my mother’s childhood was emotional for both my mother and me. The cold weather, the hassle of getting there and missing two days of school suddenly all became worth it to witness this great moment in American history.

Click here to read teens’ reactions to Barack Obama’s inauguration.