The Inauguration, Part 1: Gabi and Lauren Go to Washington

Two Danville students to attend historic inauguration
By Sharon Lakey
On January 20, 2008, the world’s eyes will be turned on Washington DC as Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Two Danville high school students will be there in person. Gabi Potts, senior, and Lauren Peterson, freshman, have been planning this adventure long before they knew the historic magnitude of the event.
Gabi came to it through a program called The Presidential Classroom. Its mission has been to provide outstanding high school students with a first-class civic education using Washington DC as a classroom. The program was created in 1968 when a strong youth voice surfaced in America. Having attended one of their weeklong institutes in Washington, Gabi received a postcard in July that listed the inauguration as one of the upcoming events. She applied online and was selected.
Lauren came to it through another door—the National Young Leaders State Conference (NYLSC). This group’s goal is to foster and inspire young leaders. It was founded 23 years ago and tailors programs to specific age groups. Having been through that training in Cambridge MA, she received a letter in June telling her of the inauguration opportunity. Like Gabi, she jumped at the idea.
Interestingly, the girls come from opposite sides of the political spectrum. Gabi, though a stated independent, tends toward the more liberal, Democratic point of view; Lauren comes from the Republican. After graduation, Gabi hopes to major in aerospace engineering and minor in politics and has her fingers crossed on acceptance into a major university. Lauren, with three years left in high school, is focused on building her skills as a student leader. 
This summer, as part of her senior project, Gabi received an education in door-to-door politicking when she helped Jane Kitchell and Kitty Toll with their re-election bids. “I, personally, knocked on 100 doors,” says Gabi. She was more in tune with Hillary Clinton’s campaign at that time, as she is especially concerned with women’s issues. Lauren says she was focused more on McCain’s policies. “Probably, I was influenced by my parents,” she says candidly. “But since the election, I’ve been studying some of Obama’s ideas,” she says. “I like them,” she says, but adds, “not all of them.”
Now, as President-elect Obama prepares his team for the coming term, both girls are excited about the possibilities. Gabi feels his election has “opened a lot of doors, especially for minorities and women. There is new ground to explore,” she says. Lauren hopes “we will wake up and fix what we’ve done: wake up to the pollution, violence and war, and learn how to spend more wisely as a nation and individually.”
Most likely, the girls will not see each other at the inauguration after they reach Washington, but the itineraries for Gabi and Lauren in Washington are well planned. They will travel on January 17 and return on January 21.  Both agendas include keynote speakers, tours, debates, and will culminate in all the inaugural festivities, including attendance at one of the black tie gala inaugural balls. They have been informed of a strict dress code requirement for all the events and are planning to pack accordingly. Gabi’s inaugural gown is in the making and Lauren is planning to wear the dress she wore at eighth-grade graduation.
Both girls need to raise approximately $3,000 to cover expenses for the entire event. They have already completed some individual fundraising, but are planning to host a Mexican dinner before a basketball game sometime in early January. They wish to thank the many donors who have already given and hope to see many at the Mexican dinner.

North Star readers are in for a treat. Look forward to the next issue to get a first-hand view and insight of one of the most historic inaugurations in America’s history from two very perceptive young women.

This article was published in the January 2009 issue of The North Star Monthly

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