Tuesday January 15, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Forty Pittsfield High School students and a number of local community and political leaders will be among the throngs expected Monday for President Obama’s second inaugural.

Students from Maggie Esko’s government class and Brendan Sheran’s U.S. history class at PHS will travel to Washington on Saturday and spend a few days touring the capital -- culminating in the Inaugural Day events for the nation’s 57th presidential inauguration.

"They’ll be touring the city, going to Ford’s Theatre, Capitol Hill, to the museums, and then on Monday to the inaugural and the parade," Esko said of the trip.

They will also attend an inaugural ball for students from around the nation, she said.

Student Makayla Powers, who said she couldn’t go with a smaller student group to Washington with the instructors last year, said Monday she didn’t want to miss this trip and the learning experience.

Sheran said students in the Advanced Placement classes used iPads to track and analyze polling data leading up the November election, immersing themselves in the electoral process. "This [trip] also will help students connect together what they are learning here with an understanding of the broader picture in our country," he said.

"The hope definitely is that we see students connect the places and the historical and current events we’ve been talking about in government and history classes," Esko said.


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In addition to the Washington trip, several students in the classes participated in the campaigns of [then candidate] Elizabeth Warren and [then Sen.] Scott Brown in the recent election, Sheran said, gaining first-hand, grass-roots experience in the process.

Also taking the trip will be PHA Vice Principal Matthew Bishop and Patricia MacCartney of the main office staff.

Among local officials, Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and his wife, Theresa, will be flying down for the events.

While he is looking forward to witnessing a bit of history, the mayor added that he "wants it to be a productive trip."

To that end, he said he hopes to talk with state and federal lawmakers and government officials who might help move forward some of the projects the city envisions.

"It is just as much to make contacts," Bianchi said, "and hopefully promote our wish list for 2013."

Susan Olshuff, of Lenox, who served on the president’s re-election campaign staff, said a bout of the flu caused her to decide not to make the trip. But she plans a watch party "before a big screen TV," most likely at her home, where she said many planning meetings with staff members and volunteers were held during the campaign.

James Taylor, long an unofficial ambassador for the Berkshires, will be in Washington to perform during the events, along with Smokey Robinson, Alicia Keys, Usher, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Brad Paisley and others.

Washington officials are predicting a drop in attendance to 600,000 to 800,000 for the inauguration this year, according to the Associated Press, compared with 2009 when a record 1.8 million crowded the National Mall to see the first African-American president sworn in.

To reach Jim Therrien: jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com,
or 413-496-6247

Facts about President Barack Obama’s second
inauguration, the 57th in U.S. history:

n The Constitution’s 20th Amendment, passed by Congress in March 1932 and ratified by the necessary states the following January, sets the inauguration date as Jan. 20 at noon. Because that’s a Sunday this year, Obama will take the official oath of office that day in a private ceremony. A public ceremony will be held Jan. 21 on the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

n Obama has chosen to use two Bibles during his swearing-in -- one owned by Martin Luther King Jr. and the other by Abraham Lincoln. He used the Lincoln Bible while taking the oath four years ago. He is adding King’s Bible for an inaugural ceremony that will take place on Jan. 21, the federal holiday honoring the civil rights leader.

n Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer the oath to Vice President Joe Biden.

n Local officials are planning for an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people to crowd onto the National Mall to witness the oath-taking ceremony.

n The president will recite this oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Those words transform
citizen to president and mark the beginning of a new administration.

Sources: Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the Department of Defense, and the Library of Congress.