I recently had the opportunity of attending the 57th Presidential Inauguration in our nation’s capitol.
The trip was one of the most amazing experiences that I have been honored to be a part of thus far. I traveled with the Calera High School Marching Eagle Band, which was chosen among fifteen other ensembles to perform in the inaugural parade out of 28,000 applicants nationwide. This was a stunning achievement for the Band Director at Calera High School, Mr. Ryan Murrell. I was honored to present the students of the band with a certificate of recognition in lieu of Governor Bentley. I was not alone in this endeavor, as JSU Student Senator Kenneth Smith personally secured this certificate as well as a letter of recommendation that helped secure the band’s place in the parade.
Murrell is a JSU Graduate and a Marching Southerner alumnus, having served as the Head Drum Major in 2009. I am proud of his accomplishment, as he has only been the director of this program for six months.
We departed for the nation’s capitol on Friday, Jan. 18th, traveling throughout much of the night to Washington D.C. Upon arriving we immidiately began touring. We started with the Smithsonian Institution, which consists of multiple museums and buildings within the center of the city.
The following day we visited Arlington National Cemetery and the former home of General Robert E. Lee. Featured at the Cemetery are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom’s and liberty each of us enjoy daily. Some of the more specific sites to see within the national cemetery are the burial site of President John F. Kennedy. Featured at president Kennedy’s final resting place is the eternal flame, which represents his dreams and hopes for our nation.
The Cemetery is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded 365 days a year, 24 hours a day by a select unit of servicemen. Each of these guards must complete extensive training after being selected for the position, which is very difficult to obtain. Further, each guard is required to have extensive knowledge of the cemetery.
The Cemetery also hosts the mast from the U.S.S Maine and memorial to the Sailors whom lost their lives on this vessel, triggering the start of the Spanish-American War; and a memorial to the crew of the Challenger.
In addition to Arlington, Washington is home to some of our greatest monuments. Featured prominently in the city is the Washington Monument, which is a giant obelisk that towers over the capitol. Facing the Washington monument is the Lincoln Memorial, which boasts a nineteen-foot-tall statue of the 16th president and both the Emancipation Proclamation and his second inaugural address reside upon the inner walls of the memorial.
The memorial is surrounded by other prominent features, such as the Korean War Monument, the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Monument. I also visited the recently completed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial which features a wonderfully done statue and famous quotes through out the entirety of the landmark.
On Monday, Jan. 21st, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I with many others from across the nation lined Pennsylvania Avenue for the Presidential Inauguration and parade that was to follow. Over 800,000 people were present in the city for the event from all over the country and some from other nations. It was truly a breathtaking event and sight.
The Parade began around two o’clock in the afternoon and lasted for hours as there were five separate divisions, each prominently featuring a branch of the United States Military. I am proud to say that the students of the Calera High School Marching Eagle Band were in the third of these divisions, and represented the state of Alabama with pride and class. I will never forget the look upon their faces as they passed. The notion that they would soon be before the president’s review stand must have been truly breathtaking. I can not begin to express the excitement and joy for these young people as the event was an opportunity of a life time.
For Ryan, this experience had brought him full circle, having marched himself in the 55th Presidential Inaugural Parade in 2001 with the Homewood High School Marching Patriot Band.
On the last day of our trip, we toured the United States Capitol Building, one of my favorite stops of the entire trip. This structure is profoundly amazing in every aspect, so special that it does not have an address. The rotunda is geographically in the center of Washington D.C. and features amazing art work, much of which can be found in American History text books from our youth.
In conclusion, whether you’re interested in politics or government, or history or not, I strongly recommend that each of you take the American pilgrimage to our nation’s capitol. You will not be disappointed, and perhaps, just as I did, you will become refreshed in the spirit of pride for our nation and cause as a people. Thank you for the opportunity to briefly share with you a wonderful experience that has truly inspired me.