DHS Students See 2017 Inauguration Close Up


Ms. McCort

DHS Students who went on the Inauguration Close Up trip. (Back Row, Left to Right) Rebecca Hoffman, Hailey Lampi, Alexandra Crocker, Samantha Crocker, Carli Lopez, Jerri Lopez, Travis Floyd, Karyn Utsumi, Aiden (Front Row) Alexandra Stassinopoulos, Vaishna, Eve, Srinidhi Srinivassen, Sarah Grier, Clarisse, and Ashley.

Alexandra Stassinopoulos, Editor-in-Chief

Close Up Trip & Mission


While millions of Americans across the country were watching the time until the 58th inauguration tick down (with varying levels of excitement or dismay) from home, sixteen DHS students travelled to DC through “Close Up”, an educational organization that allows students to see our country’s political system, well, close up.


One of the most underrated parts of democracy is the diversity of the people who participate in it. During the Close Up trip, students not only got the chance to meet students from other parts of the country, but also became their roommates. Each room had one pair of students from DHS and one pair of students from a school in Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Texas or Alabama (the other states staying at the same hotel).


Although some students were initially wary of this arrangement, many came to enjoy spending time with their roommates.


“I was mildly afraid that we would have crazy roommates,” said senior Sarah Grier, “but in the end, my roommates were really chill.”


Students got further chances to meet new people during their nightly workshops. In these “workshop” groups of around thirty people, students got to not only talk to students with different backgrounds from themselves, but also debate differing political views. Over the course of the week, students participated in a mock congress, brainstorming sessions on current national issues, and activities that aimed to clarify the powers and functions of the three branches of government.


Though the debates could sometimes be tense at times, the atmosphere during the workshops were always positive and respectful.


During the day, students were able to visit the monuments and museums around and in the National Mall. The day before the inauguration, they also listened to a lecture by “Fair Vote”, an organization committed to redesigning the electoral college and other current voting practices in order to increase their fairness for both parties.


However, as DHS’s Close Up trip this year coincided with the week of the inauguration, students were able to see more than in a normal trip to D.C. On their Wednesday “Hill Day”, DHS students not only got to go to Capitol Hill, they had the opportunity to sit in on cabinet confirmation hearings.


Students take a picture with Senator Elizabeth Warren outside the Health and Human Services confirmation hearings.


For senior Karyn Utsumi, Hill Day was her favorite part of the trip.


“I went on the D.C. trip in eighth grade. When I went back this year, I wanted to see my government in action and focus on how I can participate in it. While we were there, I got to watch part of the confirmation hearing for Health and Human Services cabinet position, which was really cool. We also went to the Inauguration, which was a once in a lifetime event. My favorite part was the Women’s March on Saturday because I think women’s rights are really important and that was my way of showing that.”


After the so-called “Hill Day”, students took a tour of Arlington Cemetery and watched the changing of guard ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier.


The Inauguration


On Friday, students got up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the inauguration. Courtesy of Congressman Swalwell, the students were able to stand in the “silver ticket” section on the body of the mall.  From their spot amongst hundreds of other spectators, the group was able to watch the ceremony on the jumbotron at the front of their section.


As people who watched the ceremony at home know, the inauguration was heralded first by a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and then was followed by the United States Marine Band.


Once all of the officials and politicians were seated on the stage, the ceremony began, with speeches by Senators Roy Blunt and Chuck Schumer. After his swearing in, President Trump also gave a speech.


Students at the ceremony reported that it was certainly a unique experience to hear the ceremony live and listen to the music and speeches as they were broadcast over the mall. However, the atmosphere in the area they were standing was less than pleasant, with other viewers booing when Democratic officials appeared on stage. When Senator Schumer was speaking, the booing was to the point where students had trouble hearing his speech.


However, the DHS students’ motto for the day was “they go low, we go high”, and so they met their fellow audience members’ boos with cheers when the people they supported appeared on screen, remaining respectfully silent when that was not the case.


Although the inauguration was crowded, the mall definitely wasn’t packed, according to Mrs. McCort, one of the DHS teachers chaperoning the trip. Mrs. McCort leads the “Close Up” trip every year, including the trip during Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.


“Last time, the crowds were so dense that the students and I had to link arms so we wouldn’t get separated. This time, I was expecting that as well and I told Ms. Beck, ‘You’re in charge of that group and I’m in charge of this one,’ because I thought for sure that we would be separated. However that simply wasn’t the case. We were able to walk out of the inauguration easily.”


The night of the inauguration, students got to go to their own “inauguration ball” at a hotel in Bethesda. At the ball were several hundred Close Up students from around the country and DHS students got to meet more people as they celebrated the inauguration.


For freshman Vaishna Prabhuvenkatesh, this was one of the best moments of the trip.


“One of my favorite memories from Close Up was the Inaugural Ball because we got to enjoy [sic] with our newly made friends doing a lot of cool activities and dancing the night away.”


DHS’s “Nasty Women” Take on D.C.


The day after the inauguration was a free day for the students on the “Close Up” program. Because the Women’s March was being held in D.C. that day, students were given the option of marching. Nine students opted to skip the march and go see other D.C. museums they had not yet visited, but seven nasty women and Mrs. McCort chose to protest in the march instead.


The Women’s March was supposed to be centered at 3rd and Independence street, right next to the Museum of the American Indian. However, by the time DHS students arrived at the pre-march rally, the crowd had stretched to 12th Street, nine blocks away from the start of the march.


Sammie Crocker
Carrie Fisher’s legacy as strong-willed Princess Leia was honored at the Women’s March on D.C. in marcher’s signs.


Before they marched, students listened to prominent activists and celebrities speak on their views on subjects as varied as abortion and immigration rights. The key factor between the speeches however, was that they were all women’s issues. This may not make sense initially, but as California Senator Kamala Harris put it, was that “all issues are women’s issues”; to paraphrase her speech, any women not getting an equal wage will tell you that equality is a “women’s issue” and any African American mother will tell you that “black lives matter”.


Students started marching as singer and activist Alicia Keys sang “Girl on Fire”, however, the crowd was so dense that the “march” really turned into a shuffle towards the Washington Monument. Along the way, students chanted different refrains, such as “this is what democracy looks like” and took pictures of signs that boasted their own creative slogans.


(To read more about the Women’s March read my editorial: “The Women’s March on Washington D.C.: This is What Democracy Looks Like” by clicking here.)


After “Close Up”


The “Close Up” trip, inauguration edition, was truly a once in the lifetime opportunity for students who took part. Already, students have found themselves inspired by the trip to take more action in politics through volunteering and activism, whether it’s by continuing to follow the group that ran the Women’s March or simply by registering or pre-registering to vote.


If you didn’t go on the trip, but now wish you had, all is not lost. Ms. McCort leads a group to D.C. every year, usually in November. To get more information go to her room (L 113) during lunch or before school or go to the “Close Up” website here.


**To hear more about the women’s march, come to the Friday Forum on February 3 in the Career Center during lunch.