This Issue

Spring 2009

Life was different back then. George Ariyoshi presided as Governor. Kalapana recently released Many Classic Moments. Bobby McGee’s was Waikiki’s hot spot. And ‘Iolani was a school for boys.
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Spring 2009 - Feature

Embracing History at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama

It was 7 a.m. in Hawai‘i and noon in Washington, D.C. when President Barack Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009.

On the ‘Iolani campus, students and teachers witnessed the historic event through a live newscast across a movie-sized screen in Seto Hall.

An ocean and a continent away, eighteen ‘Iolani students were actually there. They stood on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., bundled beneath layers of wool and heavy coats, standing in the frigid winter air, watching their breath billow as they talked. Yet freezing temperatures and the confusion that comes with being among three million spectators failed to dampen the ‘Iolani students’ enthusiasm. They had followed the presidential election from the primaries to the general vote. Now they were at the pinnacle of one of the nation’s most impassioned political chapters.   


‘Iolani students could see the capitol in the distance from where they stood on the National Mall on Inauguration Day. (Photo courtesy Tarah Sullivan)
These students, ranging from ninth to twelfth graders, possessed a special interest in government and politics and signed up through ‘Iolani for Close Up Foundation Inauguration 2009, a non-partisan program that exposes high school students across the country to the democratic process through civic education programs.  History teachers Woodie Milks ’90 and John Bickel accompanied the students to Washington, D.C., from January 16 to 25.

On Inauguration morning, the ‘Iolani group left their hotel in Old Town Alexandria for the Metro station at 3:30 a.m., caught a 4:00 a.m. train into the capital, and arrived at the L’Enfant Plaza where they waited until the National Mall opened. They stood between the National Air and Space Museum and the National Archives where they could see the capitol steps in the distance. Nearby they saw tears of joy on the faces of the people standing around them.   

Megan Jackson ’09, Steven Wall ’09, Taylor Donovan ’09, Marie Calvet ’09, teacher Woodie Milks ’90, Megan Oshiro ’09, Jenna Arnold ’09, and Tarah Sullivan ’09 wait in the early morning. (Photo courtesy Marie Calvet)
“While there were many young people in the audience, most moving to me were the faces of older African-Americans who had lived through the 1950s and 1960s and had seen a distant dream become a reality,” said Bickel.


Students watched President Obama on a jumbotron on the mall. (Photo courtesy Marie Calvet)
During the week, the group toured memorials and museums, visited the Capitol Building and Senator Daniel Akaka’s office, attended a Close Up Inaugural Ball, and visited colonial town Williamsburg. The highlight, naturally, was hearing the nation’s 44th President deliver his acceptance speech.   

“I saw bumper stickers and buttons that said, ‘I was there!’” Bickel noted. “We were there.”