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A Day of Remembrance

March, 2009
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  Though the weather was bone-chillingly cold, the warmth from the crowd spread from throughout as we eagerly waited the new president’s arrival.

  It was truly a memorable moment for me to be standing amidst the people of this nation sharing the same hopes and expectations for the coming America. Standing here waiting to witness history brought back sweet memories of how this long journey began.

  Last summer, along with several other top-achieving students from my school, I was invited to attend the Global Young Leaders Conference in Vienna, Budapest and Prague -  an intensive 12-day program where selected scholars explored global leadership issues. The participants from this program later received an invitation to attend the Presidential Inauguration. I was really astonished because I was already so fortunate to be able to go to this conference so I was really amazed and delighted to even receive the invitation.

  This January I was invited to attend the prominent Presidential Youth Inauguration Conference where altogether 15,000 students ranging from middle school to college from all over the United States came to witness this historic moment.

  It was an honor to be amongst my peers, debating and exchanging ideas about current world issues. This was an intense five-day program full of enriching activities including motivational speeches by Al Gore, Colin Powell, Bishop Desmond Tutu and others who shared life changing experiences and words wisdom with our eager young minds. Not only were their messages inspiring for us but also the fact that so many of us had the same thought in common- we have a role to play in shaping this world. As Al Gore had said in his speech: “As young leaders of the next generation, we have to be an active part of this world.”

  I think that it’s not just us who can make the difference, but anyone who has the motivation to do so can achieve what he or she wants to do. President Obama has certainly brought hope to youth around the world by becoming the first black president of the United States of America.

  The highlight of the conference was of course the Inauguration. We awoke bright and early at 5:30 am, tiredly brushing away the sleepiness from our eyes, our hearts full of excitement and anticipation for the big day. When our buses arrived there at 7 am, I was astonished to see the amount of people already gathered at the mall waving little red, white and blue flags, passing out food and drinks, oblivious to the cold and the long wait to the start of the swearing-in ceremony. People proudly wore their Obama pins and shirts and every now and then an Obama chant would break out loudly among the crowds. I couldn’t believe that I was really there, just minutes to go before witnessing a great change in history. It moved me to see so many hardworking people gathered there, filled with love for their, ready to be unified as one once again.

  We were warmly welcomed at our designated base for the day, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where we sipped free hot chocolate and had the privilege of exploring this vast and fascinating museum.

  The time passed quickly as our excitement grew. We trailed onto the packed mall and our excitement peaked as we chanted “Obama! Obama! Obama!”  To be there at that moment listening to President Obama’s swearing-in ceremonial speech was absolutely thrilling, and to see so many people deeply moved as I was by his words at that point has become deeply ingrained in my heart. Everyone’s heart jumped a beat as President Obama began to speak. The crowd became tense with awareness as he explained the hardships and troubles that we must face; but he filled us with hope and the belief that we as one nation can overcome these challenges.

  Our excitement didn’t end with the inauguration. We rounded the night off with an awesome Inaugural Ball at the National Air and Space museum, dancing and listening to Chris Daughtry’s live performance. Though our daily schedule was energy draining, not all of it was just work. We had a few precious moments to ourselves where we could mingle, meet new people and make new friends. It was surprising to see just how many people I met from all over this country from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and realizing that we have something in common.obama-3

  A big surprise for me was when I met a girl from China who was the same age as me. Our conversation that had started in English had somehow transformed into Chinese and ended up in Japanese!  She had lived in Japan when she was younger and was now living in China; she had also played a big role in raising money for the survivors of the Sichuan Earthquake. 

  The hard work and dedication she had put in to helping the people affected by the earthquake truly shows that anyone of any age can make a difference. All we need is a heart with compassion.

  These five special days had rolled by so quickly; it seemed so long and yet so fast. The end of the conference was a sad moment even though the time we spent with our friends was so short. With tearful goodbyes we promised to maintain our new friendships and our memories of this historical moment preciously forever, savoring the fact that we were there!

So let us mark this day of remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.” (President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech, January 20th 2009)

By Mika Ulmet

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