Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Feb. 5, 2001

Area students attend presidential inauguration

By Gail Lipe

Students from Mayer Lutheran High School accompanied Robert Luecke, head of the social studies department, to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President George W. Bush.

Carol Becker of Glencoe and Vanessa Schwanke of Lester Prairie were among the 14 people who went. Both sophomores in high school, they said it was their second visit to Washington, D.C.

Luecke said he tries to take a group of students to the presidential inauguration every four years. A group went in 1992 to Bill Clinton's first inauguration, but only four students were interested in 1996, so the trip was canceled.

"Two years of planning goes into the trip," said Luecke.

The students participated in fund raisers to help pay their way, and the families paid the rest. Luecke said some of the students earned one-third of the cost.

The trip included five days and four nights in Washington, D.C. Becker said they stood outside in the mud and rain for 2-1/2 hours for the inauguration.

It took place outside the Capitol building with choirs and ensembles near the place of the ceremony. The group from Mayer Lutheran was standing in the back where they could not see the faces.

Becker said there was a big screen that had CNN on, so people could see what was going on. She said it was different because they could hear it first and then see it again on the screen.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see that (the inauguration) happen," said Schwanke. "It's like you are a part of history now."

After the inauguration, the students attended an inaugural ball. Schwanke said there were approximately 4,000 teens there.

During their stay, the students also visited the Washington Monument, the Korean and Vietnam memorials, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, Iwo Jima and the Holocaust museum.

The Holocaust museum was the highlight of the trip for Becker. She said she had not seen it before, and she learned a lot. "It was really moving," she said.

Schwanke said she really liked the night tour when they saw the monuments lit up.

"Just learning how our country got this far is amazing," said Schwanke.

There were students from all over the country at the inauguration. Becker said there were approximately 40 people on their tour bus from California, Texas, Arizona and Minnesota.

"We had a lot of fun on the bus," said Becker.

Both girls agreed that the bus driver made the trip fun, and did a good job of telling the group about the history of the places they were driving by.

The respect of the past presidents and the traditions they began was evident in Washington, D.C. Becker said one thing she learned was that "so help me God" was added to the end of the inaugural oath by George Washington.

On the way back to the airport, the students walked past a pro-life march. Some of the students joined the march for a short time, including Becker and Schwanke.

Becker said they would have picked up signs and joined for a longer period of time, but they had to get to the airport.

If they had the chance to do it again, both girls said they would go in a second.

Other students who went from Mayer Lutheran include Kelsey Swanson, Laura Schrupp, Lynn Vollbrecht, Keighla Schmidt, Nicole Osborn, Lindsey Schroeder, Troy Nelson, Heidi Heuer, Jill Hoeft and Bonnie Ingelin.

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