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By Kristen Cole   Date: 1/5/09

Smith Goes to Washington

Students, Alums Make Plans to Witness Obama Inauguration

Because of the timing of the presidential election in November, right around mid-term exams, many students, like Julia Reed ’09, were away from home during the historic event. But now it’s January, between semesters, and Reed doesn’t plan on missing the opportunity to share with her parents the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president.

Like President-elect Barack Obama, Reed is the daughter of a black man and a white woman. She plans to train to Washington, D.C., to meet her parents, who are flying in from Seattle, and witness the swearing-in of President Obama on January 20.

“It will be great to be with them and to be part of history,” said Reed, 21, a government major. “On many, many levels I am thrilled about this.”

Reed is well acquainted with the capitol, having spent a semester there last year. Her tickets to the ceremony came from Congressman David Reichert, who represents Washington’s eighth district and in whose office she worked for a time. 

Not all Smithies—current students and alumnae—who plan to be in Washington on January 20 will have tickets to the inauguration. But for some that won’t deter them from joining the crowd.

As she did at the inauguration of former President Lyndon B. Johnson on January 20, 1965, Margaret Beshore Boonstra ’57 plans to show up and get a spot—even if she must stand—to witness the swearing-in of the new president.

The 73-year-old alumna from Florida well remembers standing in record-cold temperatures to see Johnson place his hand on the Bible and take the oath of office. “I just walked right up to the capitol and stood in the crowd,” she said, and added, “I found out later that it was the coldest inauguration in history.”

With that memory still vivid, Boonstra has purchased a wardrobe that will keep her warm no matter how low the temperature dips for Obama’s ceremony. She is determined to be there, she said, in part because she missed attending the inauguration of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, on January 21, 1993.

“It took me quite a while to assemble enough clothes to go,” said Boonstra, noting that Floridians don’t typically keep thermal underwear, lined boots and hats in their closets. “After volunteering for months, I wouldn’t miss it.”

Joanna Goldfarb ’11, of Montpelier, Vt., is also considering what garb to bring to Washington, D.C., although her thoughts are on her attire for a formal ball.

Goldfarb received tickets to the inauguration and to the inaugural ball from a student-achievement organization she was involved with during high school.
A member of Smith’s swim team, Goldfarb will depart from campus, where she will be training in January, and catch a flight out of Bradley Airport to attend the inauguration. But, says Goldfarb, she won’t head south until she gets opinions as to whether a gown in her closet still fits well enough to wear to the ball.
“I’m really excited,” said Goldfarb, a Cutter House resident. “At Smith, I watched election night with the entire house—everybody screaming and cheering.”

There is certain to be screaming and cheering around Satya Rhodes-Conway ’94, who plans to be in Washington, also without a ticket to the inauguration, but “somewhere on the mall” during the ceremony.

Up to 5 million people are expected to crowd onto and near the White House lawn, which would by far break the inauguration record of an estimated 1.2 million people at President Lyndon Johnson’s ceremony.

Many Smithies plan to witness the ceremony with their family members. Katy Tierney ’99 will attend with her wife and son. Boonstra planned to go with her daughter, Alexa, and hoped to meet up with her two nephews somewhere along the way.

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