Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009 — the first African-American elected to the position. Many locals will make the trip to Washington, D.C., to watch the historic event. Others will watch from here in Kansas.
Washington Since 1989, Lee Green has been introducing Baker University students to the wonders of the nation’s capital. Every four years, he takes students to tour the historic city and witness the presidential inauguration.
Again this year, Green and 16 students are in Washington. But this January is different.
“I think it’s going to be a historical occasion, obviously,” Lee said of Barack Obama’s swearing-in, set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Lawrence time. “ I think this particular inauguration, above recent ones, is just going to provide a real incentive for students to pursue careers in public service.”
Green, a professor of business, constitutional and sports law at Baker, teaches a three-week course on “Washington D.C.: The History of our Nation’s Capital City.” The class is part of a program Baker offers during January, before spring classes officially start. The university offers several interim courses that are nontraditional and often involve travel. Green said the goal of the program is “learning for learning’s sake.”
Before traveling to Washington, Green and his students spent a week studying the history of the city — the historical sites, monuments and memorials. They then were able to visit those locations. The Baker contingent will attend the inauguration, as well as the Midwest Inaugural Ball, set for Tuesday night at the Washington Convention Center.
“Just getting the chance to travel and come here as a history buff, it’s been amazing -- just seeing where our laws and nation were founded,” Andrew Linenberger, 19, a history and secondary education major from Topeka, said Sunday.
This is Linenberger’s first time to the nation’s capital, and although he is excited about the inauguration, it will not be the highlight of his trip.
“My father fought in Vietnam and he had some friends that were actually on the Wall so I got to get pictures of them for him,” Linenberger said.
Green said that although many of the students come from different backgrounds and have a variety of majors, they are all interested in public service.
“The real underlying mission of this particular course and trip is to inspire (the students) to pursue those types of careers,” he said.
The students have one other thing in common — they are all thrilled to be experiencing the history and the inauguration firsthand.
“It’s important to me because I am a political science major … so all this stuff is right up my alley, and I’m very excited to be here at such a historic time,” said Kendra Hanson, a Salina junior who is majoring in political science.