Several 'firsts' for HU students at inauguration
Historic. Fulfilling. Cold. That’s how Hampton University students described a bus trip to the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama; the first black man to serve as the nation’s commander-in-chief.
Two buses left the HU campus just after midnight Tuesday morning and arrived at Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Stadium before dawn. Reports said the day’s temperature was around 30 degrees Monday morning, but a wind chill made it feel like 24 degrees.
“It was a good experience, outside of the weather,” said Matthew Mereigh, an HU sophomore from Barbados who took the trip. Also part of the experience was HU’s band, “The Force,” who performed in the day’s inaugural parade.
“It was really fulfilling to see the reaction of Michelle and Barack Obama (as we played),” said Curtis Mason, one of three HU drum majors. “I’m only 20. This is the first time I voted, and I voted for Barack Obama and he won, and then to turn around and perform for him. I’m glad we did a great job.”
Students and faculty said the day in Washington, D.C was full of firsts.
“I’ve never seen the group so focused on what they had to do,” said HU Band Director Al Davis said. “They wanted to make it special for a special person, Barack Obama.” Among other songs, the group played Stevie Wonder’s, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which was Obama’s campaign theme song. HU Assistant Band Director Rasan Holmes ’98 arranged the band’s piece.HU’s band was one of three groups from Virginia to play in the parade, including the T.C. Williams High School Army JROTC in Alexandria and the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets in Lexington. Florida A&M, Grambling State University, Howard University, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Delaware State University were the other HBCUs that participated in the parade.
For many students, Obama’s inauguration puts a mark in history, as well as the future.
“I can tell my children’s children about it,” said Siobahn Sullivan-Wallace, a junior sociology major at HU. “My mom couldn’t make it, and she encouraged me to come. She understood the value of the experience.”
HU Senior Jason Roy, of Woodbridge, Va., watched the inauguration from teletrons in the National Mall in D.C. He made the trip into D.C. with family.
“It was a really interesting feeling. I got the sense that we were finally making change,” Roy said. “All of us as a people can say we can do whatever we put our minds to. I’m glad I was part of history … I don’t have to rely on others to tell me about the experience.”
Other students agreed that being in D.C. as the inauguration happened made a difference. HU SGA Vice President Matthew Washington helped coordinate the trip along with the university’s administration.
“It was a bit daunting coordinating a trip that put more than 100 students in the city with a million other people,” Washington said. “The students enjoyed it thoroughly, and they were happy that they fought against the cold and having to move through the crowd. They enjoyed it and would do it again. I would, too.”