Working For Peace, Justice, and A Sustainable Environment

A Modesto Peace/Life Center Publication


Washington DC Inauguration Journal from Modesto High Students


So a group of four brave chaperones — Mrs. Chiavetta, Mr. Chiavetta, Mrs. Pereira, and Mrs. Villalobos, took a group of 36 students to the inauguration. My favorite part of the inauguration was when it hit all of the people whom were cascading around that after the civil war and the civil rights movement led by the leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that there was finally an African American president. As we pondered over the long trail of blood, tears, and sweat that it took to get to this point; as we stood open mouth in amazement that one man could completely embody the hope the American people felt — and transform it into nothing short of a large gleaming light, a wave of magic fell over us. People were embracing those whom they had never so much as uttered a word to prior to this moment. There was a flurry of teardrops. Even if one didn’t support Obama, the effect that this one person has had on America (2.2 million people showed up to the inauguration); it is truly a beautiful thing.

Kelly Kariofilis

For me the most amazing part of the whole inauguration experience happened as we were walking in. A group of us had gotten separated from the main group by lines of traffic going across the flow of people. Everyone was so smashed together that it was impossible to move for at least a half an hour. Yet everyone was so curious. And as we were standing, there the sun began to ruse. At that moment, pressed against at least a dozen strangers, I realized that this day, it was impossible to be alone because of the immediate bond we all had with each other just by sharing that moment and that historic day.

Katie Elstad

Amazing. I feel so grateful that I was able to take part in this historical experience. The entire event made me realize how lucky and proud I am to be an American. The part that touched me the most was when Obama mentioned that 60 years ago, an African American was not able to buy lunch in a café, and now, on that day in history, one stood before us as the president of the United States. I am so proud of how America has matured and progressed as a nation. I can honestly say, I am proud to be an American.

Tjiska Conrotto

The 2009 Inauguration was a truly amazing movement. The sight of 2.2 Million people from all nations; Whites, African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asians all united in harmony, was breathtaking. A moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. A moment that represents peace and hope for all peoples.

Miguel Yanez

The 2009 inauguration of President Obama was a wonderful experience for everyone there. For me it was an experience I will never forget. This will surely be in history books and I can say that I was there. I hope president Obama will not only make a difference for being African American, but make a difference for what he can do for the American People.

Alyssa Gutierrez

There were so many incredible moments being at President Obama’s inauguration. There is no doubt that it was historical and I’ll be telling my children about this when I am older. The one moment I will always remember was right after president Obama was sworn in. The crowd of 2 million erupted in cheers of joy. People were crying and hugging. I hugged my friends that were close by me and we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. There definitely was hope and optimism in the air. No doubt about it.

Lauren Goldeen

The Inauguration of 2009 is an experience I’ll be sure to never forget. The most memorable moment for me would have to be seeing people coming from different parts of the world to see Obama speak. Everyone had a story to share. Everyone was impacted one way or another.

Pauline Bernandino

January 20, 2009 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was anywhere from half to three-quarters of a mile away from the capitol, watching the festivities on a jumbo-tron that day. As the hour for the swearing in of Barack Obama drew closer, the excitement and the frenzy of the crowd grew and grew. Then, in one sudden moment, Obama became out 44th president, and a wave of screaming, shouting, applause, and crying was all released at once. The world changed that day, and I was there.

Rebecca Mears

We walked onto the mall that day and I was, both exhausted and angry; so much that I wasn’t looking forward to the event and didn’t care much for it. But I walked through the crowds and sat down in my spot among the others, the millions of others on the mall that day. And as I sat and waited, they played on the jumbo-tron the festivities from the Sunday before, and people all around were dancing to the songs they played. As I looked around at these people, I had a sense, a feeling that I could not explain. And throughout the day I felt less and less angry, and more and more this way. It wasn’t until a man came up on the screen and started singing “… This land is your land, this land is my land” that I began to realize this feeling. And when Barack Obama finally stood and took his oath, and the justice congratulated hi as “Mr. President,” the crowd roared and I knew. We were one. Everyone, all of us. Those millions of people who had come to this mall today, who were dancing, who were cheering, who were crying. We, in that moment were united in a common purpose. There was no malice, only joy for one another. And I looked around and felt I knew these people very well. Even though I had Never met them before in my life.

Erin Foster

As I was standing in the mall, stomping my feet to keep the cold air from further penetrating my shoes and clothes, I gazed at the jumbo-tron and heard a tranquil sound. It was the quartet made up of a pianist, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist. Upon hearing the beautiful music my feet remained planted solidly on the ground and my body ceased to shake. I was enchanted by the harmonious music. I looked around me and everyone seemed to have the same awe-struck expression. Nothing but the playing of these amazing and talented musicians could have better illustrated the hope that lay in the heart of the American people with the ushering in of a new era, and the new president, Barack Obama.

Rachel Van Nes

The most memorable moment of the inauguration was a moment I looked at one of the jumbo-trons and it showed a live image of the capitol building with part of it illuminated by the sun. I turned my head to look at the actual capitol building to find the exact same image with the bright sun shining on it. At this moment, I came to a realization-I am here. I am standing before the caption of the United States at the inauguration of the 44th and first African American President. I am actually here.

Bobby David

Though the events leading up to the inauguration were very stressful and hectic (walking through throngs of people, braving the cold weather, desperately trying to contact our separated group, and facing an incredibly dirty port-a-potty, among them) I think the most memorable part was the sense of pride I felt for my country. It was so beautiful to see 2 million Americans come together to see the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and to be united in hope and pride for what America will become under his leadership. The two most beautiful aspects of it for me included the beginning invocation by Dr. Rick Warren, who promoted a message of peace and political faith, and Obama’s inaugural address, which advised Americans to stay strong amid these hard times. The most impressive thing about his address was that it prompted the noisy crowd of 2 million people, which before the ceremony I found almost obnoxious, into a silent group united by a new leader.

Victoria Pardini

Being the only freshman on this inauguration trip was a stressful thing for me in the beginning. Having about at least one to three people I know was okay but surrounded by other people, I would have been easily judged as an outcast. During the trip before the inauguration it was okay because I had some people to talk too and be buddies, at the inauguration however, it was difficult. Because of the ten tickets that Dennis Cardoza found was a situation because I had to be sent back to the non-ticketed group. They left however, so the second ticketed group had to call them and made them wait for me. Because of that the non-ticketed people didn’t like me because I made them wait. At the end of the inauguration it wasn’t so bad because the group I was with acted as a family and stuck through the difficult crowd on the streets. It made me realize that I wasn’t going to be hated all along. At the end I made new friends, learned historical information at the moments and memorials and have an overall fun time.

Danica Nuestro

They were all people. It is the simplest yet profound phrase that ever came to my mind. Each person of the inaugurations is an individual. Each person is so mind-boggling unique, with their own story. It is just so powerful and compelling to me. 2.2 Million wholly individual people from around the world. Each with their very own story. So when you watch the video, with an indescribable mass of dots, just know that each one can teach you something new.

Roger Tran

The anticipation building up to the inauguration was one of the best moments for me. It was so exciting to know that I would be a part of witnessing the inauguration of out next president. The fact that it was the inauguration of our very first African-American President made my excitement even more memorable. At the inauguration, when they announced that Aretha Franklin was going to sing “America the Beautiful,” I was thinking that it would just be a famous singer singing another generic patriotic song. However, when Aretha Franklin started singing amidst the 1.8 million Americans, I saw a little American flag waving in front of me. This little American flag not only showed the pride on our country that these 1.8 million Americans shared, but it also helped me realize that I was a part of the 1.8 million Americans witnessing a historical event that would be looked upon for years to come. I think just being a part of this 2009 inauguration was what made this trip memorable for me.

Kyla Manawatao

Hours of waiting. Overcrowded streets. Bitter cold. Disgusting portable toilets. I honestly have to say I wasn’t as excited as I should have been getting up extra early for the inauguration. We arrived at the mall and displayed on the giant TVs were the vast amounts of people cheering, waving flags, some even crying. Someone handed me a flag and for some reason a wave of patriotism came over me and I joined in with the enthusiastic crowds. We were all there to see a peaceful change in government, to the historic first African American president. Just thinking about that as a dot within million on the mall was overwhelming. I was there. I was standing there, waving a flag frantically and cheering at the same place, at the same time history was being written. Wow, I was really there.

Monica Sangco

We were so excited for the inauguration that we finally fell asleep at 2am, totally forgetting that we had to be up again at 3am. With only one hour of sleep, we put on a ton of layers of clothes and headed to the bus, immediately falling asleep again. All the roads in D.C. were closed for the day’s events. The bus driver, Bob, dropped us 2.5 miles away from the lines. We walked and stood for hours waiting, thinking about how cold it was — 20˚F with winds blowing on us faster than I could run. I couldn’t feel my face or my fingers and we all stood there with over 2 million people with us in line. Everyone was surprisingly nice: there wasn’t any pushing or any fights at all. We later learned that out of these millions of people, not one had gotten arrested. It took almost four hours of waiting in line to finally get through the gates. It was worth it in the end, to watch history right before our eyes. We now have change, the first African American President was brought to office, and I was there.

Nicole Sahota

It was an indescribable feeling to be at the inauguration of 2009. After all the years of discrimination, some still today, and segregation we finally have an African-American President. Being in the huge crowd, it is normally expected to have rude people and anger towards one another if you bump into them, but there wasn’t. Happiness and gratefulness were all the feelings there. Everyone was so polite and kind to each other and talking to strangers as if they had known each other all their life. This was a once in a lifetime experience and it was a great honor to be one of the people in the crowd anxiously waiting for him to officially be president. Nothing else mattered except the unity of all those people out there standing, sitting, climbing tress, we were all happy and joyous during this time.

Courtney Blankenship

“OBAMA – OBAMA – OBAMA” We shouted in unison breaking the silence of anticipation. We, locals and travelers, whites and blacks, students and teachers. The American people as one, embracing the change for the future. In this world of solidarity, I have never felt as if I’ve been a party of something bigger than myself. Carpe Diem.

Elizabeth Key

Ever since I learned I had the unique opportunity to see the inauguration of Barack Obama, I had been bursting with anticipation. The most moving moment for me was when we had to walk the 2 miles from our bus to the mall, where we would witness this amazing event. I thought this walk was incredible because of the unity I felt, walking side by side with thousands of other Americans who were so different, yet who all had the same goal of a better change for our country. Even the two-hour walk back after the inauguration through crowds and blocked off streets could not stop the contagious excitement and happiness everybody felt that day.

Marissa Goodman

Any historical event is priceless. As I watched spectators, I was awed that I was one of these 2 million people. In a country so diverse and split, like ours, it is amazing to see our nation come together, for one event, the inaugural address. As the crowd cheered “O-BA-MA,” cried, and hugged, I was grateful that I was a witness in watching and creating history. No word can describe this phenomenon except one… priceless.

Parveen Bhatia

There were several instances where I was in complete awe in witnessing this historical and life-changing event. What impressed me the most was the two million people lined up one after the other, all proudly waving the American flag and cheering “O-BA-MA!” simultaneously. This was the first in a long time that I felt proud to be an American.

Ashveen Dhillan

While seeing different places around D.C., we were given the opportunity to walk through Arlington National Cemetery. I walked with my best friend and we talked among ourselves. As I walked with her, thousands of graves passed us by. The juxtaposition between these two things was astounding. The graves stood solemnly beside us, while we walked lively together along the path. This experience helped me realize that those who helped keep this country free shouldn’t be forgotten, while at the same time one should not dwell on the past.

Michael Kaiser

I cannot put into words how truly honored I am to have witnessed such a momentous event. The thought that I was actually at the swearing in of the first African-American president was overwhelming. I will never forget that day, the day that will be forever in the history books, with an emphasis on Obama’s eloquence and his tear-rending speech. However, personally, I will never forget that true American spirit that defined the historical day. Strangers were conversing with each other as if they had known each other for their entire lives. This nationalistic spirit embodied the phrase, “We are one,” and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Jasmin Johal

The inauguration of President Obama was incredibly momentous. It marked a day that meant freedom and liberty for all people of different races. This had a great impact on the feeling of many people there. I saw people dancing and cheering, standing in awe and some crying silent tears of joy all for the same thing. This day changed my life and the lives of the people I saw.

James Lamb

January 20, 2009 is a day that will never be forgotten. The inauguration of President Barack Obama will no doubt go down in history. That day was the most amazing, exhausting, annoying, and wonderful day of my life. The fact that I was in Washington D.C. at the inauguration was amazing and overwhelming. It was exhausting and (kind of) annoying because of how long we waited just to get in the gate, but I think that it was worth the wait. For me, a person who has never left California, it was truly a privilege to be able to have the opportunity to go on a trip such as this one. It is a day that we all came together as one. The wait was an experience in itself. So many people waiting to enter, so many people smashed together for 3 hours… that is Crazy! Never in my life have I felt so violated. Personal space was not an option. But it was truly one of the best experiences. Just getting to meet different people from all over the world was amazing. Different ages and ethnicities — it was a wonderful day. I will probably never do it again, but I can say I was there for the inauguration of the first African American president of the USA. I know president Obama will do a great job as president and at the end of his term I know we will all still be as proud of him as the day he first started.

Christina Ascencio

I stood still. I closed my eyes.
And listened to the
sound of America.

Behind me, in front of me, and beside me. I wanted to take in the moment and never forget the feeling of being present at the 2009 Inauguration.

Heather Sinclair

~Things to remember~

Change is possible
Don’t be another Lemming
Let someone know when you leave
to use the bathroom
The vibe was good, real good

Knowing that a powerful community of amazing people were responsible for the outcome of the election and the inauguration!

Excitement of running up the hill at the Washington monument to see and hear Obama’s speech at the concert

Early mornings off to the races
To see the great founders and many new places
We sang “good morning Baltimore”
And hoped March would fall no more…
Oh my that would be bad

We stayed out of trouble
By pairing to doubles
Though somehow the excitement still couldn’t escape us
A few peers were lost
We were covered in frost
Unable to feel fingers and toes

The good news is we no longer use leeches
And heard some great speeches
Change was all around

The people were kind
The same thoughts on each mind
“Obama Obama Obama”

Ziplock bags in hand
Space in demand
And somehow we made it through

The port-a-pottys weren’t great
The mall was free of hate
Together we can change
For sure

So as I sit on the plane
And wave bye to the terrain
You’ll see my reflections
Are merely a taste

Of the action packed week
That was truly a treat
For me, for all, for D.C.