Locals to Witness Historic Inauguration
Nancy Barton was going to make it to the presidential inauguration no matter what.
After all, she had worked tirelessly on the Obama campaign in Moore County for months.
This was the big payoff for her and the other countless volunteers who helped elevate the Illinois senator to the presidency. She wanted to be there to soak up the energy and excitement of the historical event.
Little did she know she would have one of the best seats in the house.
Two weeks ago, she got an e-mail from the Presidential Inaugural Committee that she had been selected by the Obama campaign to receive two tickets to the ceremony -- in row 20.
"I really was short of breath," she said, referring to the moment she opened the e-mail. "I'm absolutely thrilled and honored to be going and to have this opportunity to participate."
Barton is one of several Moore County residents making the journey to Washington to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. They will be among the millions descending on the nation's capital to be a part of history.
Jessica Ledbetter, who worked with Barton on the Obama campaign, also lucked out and received tickets. She obtained hers through her field organizer from the campaign and will be seated in row 47 for the ceremony. She said she still can't believe she's actually going.
"I never thought I'd see this day," she said. "It's given me pride in my country again after [the past] eight years. It means everything to me."
Ledbetter now works as an after-school counselor for the Moore County Communities in Schools program. Being an African-American herself, Ledbetter said that Obama's inauguration signifies that the country has finally been able to overcome a racial roadblock.
"It just means that [race] is not a factor that can bar us anymore," she said. "It is very important to be able to talk about it, but we were able to move past it and bring everyone together."
Ledbetter contended that Obama's ability to transcend race played a big role.
"He included so many people," she said. "The world's problems aren't black and white anymore."
Seeing Old Friend
Ansol and Doris Graham, of Carthage, received their inauguration tickets by Fed-Ex Thursday, in plenty of time to pack up and leave for the D.C. area Saturday.
Their tickets were secured through their daughter, Katrina N. Graham, now a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A former military intelligence specialist, Katrina received four tickets by applying to Congressman Howard Coble's office.
Katrina joined her parents for the trip to Washington, where they will stay with her father's brother, Joseph N. Graham, who is chief of operations at the Library of Congress. He will be working on Tuesday because his buildings will be open to the public, but his wife, Carlena Graham, will use the fourth ticket for the inaugural ceremonies. Joseph Graham is also retired from Air Force service at the Pentagon.
Ansol Graham, a retired educator and a Democratic member of the Moore County Board of Elections, said he and his wife packed their dress clothes along with heavy coats.
He said they don't want to miss any festivities but don't want to suffer in the expected cold weather either. They planned to attend as many parties as possible as well as a concert this afternoon featuring Bruce Spring-steen and other top artists.
While in Washington, they also hope to visit Congressman G.K. Butterfield of the 1st District. He is not their congressman, but he is a childhood friend of Doris Graham's. The two grew up in the same block in Wilson.
Several students from Pinecrest High School are making the trip as part of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.
This is more of a business trip for these top students, since they will be involved in intensive roundtable discussions, debates and lectures from the Washington elite, which includes former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
They have seats for the ceremony and the parade, and will also attend a black-tie gala at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where the newly installed president and first lady will be dropping by.
Josh Kearns is an inauguration veteran. He was a part of the same conference four years ago and watched President Bush take the oath of office for his second term. While that was exciting, he expects this year to be a little different.
"It's going to be bigger," he said.
This time around, Josh was allowed to nominate someone to go on the trip with him. Like a good big brother, he is taking his younger sister, Katie.
"We're just excited about the opportunity to go see this historical event happening," she said.
Both Josh and Katie expect to make a lot of new friends as well. Josh said that these conferences always turn out to be a valuable learning experience.
"I always come away feeling like I've gained in leadership abilities," he said.
Dane Nelsen, who has been to a couple of these conferences in D.C. and Boston, said he is relishing the chance to go.
"To have the first African-American president and I get to go to it, it's pretty neat," he said.
Doug Harrison feels the same way. He is catching a ride up to D.C. in his grandfather's RV. He said he knew he wanted to go even before the nominating process was over last summer, and his whole family chipped in to make it possible.
"I knew it was going to be an historical inauguration no matter what," he said.
Harrison said he also looks forward to meeting some politicians, especially those from his home state of New York.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," he said.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Senior Writer Florence Gilkeson contributed to this story.
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