Sacred Heart students attend presidential inauguration


Sacred Heart University sophomores, from left, Joshua Murphy, Nicole Trommelen, Winnie Maloney, Adam Salwocki and Matt Kish attended the presidential inauguration.

Call it a trip of “capital” gains of presidential proportions for dozens of students from Sacred Heart University who recently made the trek to Washington, D.C., to witness the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States.

The journey to the nation’s capital this January marked the eighth trip that Gary Rose, chairman of Sacred Heart’s Department of Government and Politics, has organized since he joined the University over three decades ago. The trip was originated by Rose’s former political science colleague, professor John Kikoski, who is now retired from Sacred Heart.

Rose, a frequent political pundit in the media and an author, shepherded his first trip to the inauguration during President Ronald Reagan’s second term in 1985.

“From what I can determine, Sacred Heart is the only university in Connecticut that has such a tradition,” he said, adding that one of the standouts among those experiences was 2009 when Obama was first inaugurated as president.

“In many ways, Obama’s first inauguration was a global event that was attended by close to two million people and watched all over the world,” Rose said. That year, he chartered two buses and took close to 100 students to witness the swearing in of the country’s first African-American president.

“That was truly a phenomenal ceremony,” he said. “But the inauguration we just attended was also very popular and attended by slightly more than one million people, which still suggests great enthusiasm for this president.”

The three-day trip was packed with various events. Following their arrival, the students listened to a lecture on the 2012 election by Catholic University of America political science professor, John K. White, who is a widely published scholar in the area of American electoral politics. White also led and narrated a “moonlight” tour of the national monuments.

The next day, the group visited the Smithsonian Museums, followed by a policy briefing with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, whose legislative district includes Sacred Heart. He spent close to a full hour with the students.

As much as 2009 was special with Obama’s meteoric rise, worldwide popularity and pledge for substantive change, Rose said each inauguration generates a great deal of enthusiasm and awe among the students — regardless of who is inaugurated and if it is the president’s first or second term.

“Each one is very special and historic,” he said.

One of Rose’s fondest memories is of when Reagan left office in 1989.

“He circled the Washington Mall in his helicopter several times waving at the people below as he departed the capital. That brought a tear to my eye,” Rose said.

Another highlight came in 1989 when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia met with him and the students for 30 minutes. The briefing was arranged by a former student who was employed on a congressional staff.

“Justice Sacalia came out behind the ‘purple curtain’ and talked to the students about his life on the high court,” Rose said. “That, too, was extremely special.”

For Faustine Jean-Louis, the opportunity to view the inauguration of the 44th president could not be missed, and the moment underscored the fundamental democratic principles the country was founded on.

“We are taught that in a democracy every voice should be heard and no one man is better than the other,” said Jean-Louise, who serves as vice president of Sacred Heart’s chapter of College Democrats and PAIS. “This event celebrates the growth of America, despite its imperfections. This wasn’t just the president being inaugurated for a second term; this was the people of America being inaugurated. We have come far despite the trials we have been through, and I don’t say this lightly.”

Like Jean-Louise, Joshua Murphy, who is the vice president of College Republicans at Sacred Heart, said the trip to the beltway was an opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse of the democratic process.

“I was really interested to see our republic in action,” Murphy said. “In the United States, we have a system that not many people around the world get to experience. Our democracy is alive and well, and events like inaugurations prove this.”

For history major Winnie Maloney, attending the event was also meaningful, not just as a scholarly experience, but also a personal one.

“I went for the historical aspect and meaning this weekend would have,” said Maloney, who is also the secretary of Sacred Heart’s chapter of College Republicans. “Being in the midst of something that will one day be a part of a history book is just mind-blowing for me. I’ve always taken for granted that we elect our officials to govern our country. If we think about it, we could be subjects of a king or a dictator. Instead, we elect someone who does not have supreme control. That is what makes inaugurations so great.”

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