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 Two SRU students create once in a lifetime memories at inauguration 




January 23, 2009

Contact: K.E. Schwab  



Two SRU students create once in a lifetime memories at inauguration       


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Two Slippery Rock University students remain on Cloud Nine after spending several days in Washington, D.C., to witness firsthand Tuesday's historic inauguration of President Barack Obama.

           Political science majors Jessica Cosme, from Butler and a member of the SRU Council of Trustees, and her friend, Alexandra McNeill, from Pulaski, have been involved with the Democratic Party for several years. They followed and worked for the party during the primaries, the party's convention in Denver and November's general election. They agreed that after all that work, they had to see their efforts through to the end by participating in the Capitol city's inauguration ceremony.

           Estimates say nearly 2 million people attended.

           "I decided to go because I did some work at the Democratic Party Convention in Denver and just through it would be a nice thing to do," said Cosme. She arrived early and handled delivering inauguration tickets over the weekend. "It was very cold, but not half as cold as here," she said Wednesday after arriving back on campus in time to attend her afternoon class.

           "I thought it was a pretty great experience," Cosme said. "It was really great. There were lots of very, very enthusiastic people. The city was wonderful, with lots of happy people. It truly was a great experience; a once in a lifetime experience. It is something I will always be able to say 'I was there' for."

           "We got to Washington after the big concert, but it was awesome to be part of the big day and part of the huge crowds that came to see President Obama sworn in. It was outrageous, it was something to see, there were just huge lines of people waiting to get tickets. I initially planned to work for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party office, but they did not have enough work for me, so I joined Alex, because she had worked for a member of Congress as an intern, and she hooked me up."

           McNeill, and her mother, Lynnda, knew they had inauguration tickets - and "hotel space" with relatives in Alexandria. McNeill and Cosme were guests of McNeill's brother, while Lynnda McNeill stayed nearby with a cousin. Despite the obvious confusion, they managed to assemble early Tuesday morning for the walk, originally expected to be about two miles, to the "Purple Section" ticket area within eyesight of the Capitol stage. Their section was directly behind the "Yellow Section" which corralled celebrities. Due to security, traffic rerouting and closed bridges, the length of the walk expanded, but with the eventual help of a free bus ride, the trio arrived at their designated location at 11:30 a.m. - just in time for the noon inauguration.

           As for tickets, McNeill said her Congressional connections paid off handsomely. "We were to pick up our tickets, but when we arrived Monday at the location, the line - she estimates 30,000 people - was around the building. I used my cell phone to call the office to say I would not be able to get in before closing time. They assured me the office would stay open until all tickets were distributed. Then, an intern from the office where I had worked came down and into the line to deliver my tickets. It was great."

           As for the actual inauguration, McNeill said, "It was great; an amazing experience. It is something I have never seen in my life."  

           The long walk to the event, turned much shorter on the return trip as McNeill knew the Washington, D.C., Metro System and found a way for quick return to their destination.

           "The day was insane, the security check was a joke, but the overall event was incredible," McNeill said. "There were so many people, and it was so cold outside, but we were so closely packed together that we stayed warm. The huge JumboTrons and audio worked perfectly, so we could see and hear it all - and we could look in the distance to see the actual event," she said.

           McNeill also learned about crowd dynamics. "After President Obama's speech, the crowd started to disburse, and you just had to move with the masses. We did not get to hear the poem, because the crowd was moving like a wave, taking us with it."

           "The whole experience was wonderful. To hear the cheers for Obama was great. The crowds were incredible; everyone was in high spirits," she said. 

           She left D.C., early Wednesday, but admitted she did not make it back in time for her "Human Diversity" class. Still, she said she would make up the work.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.


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