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Cibola student soaks up inauguration experience
Jesse-Manuel Begay was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people Monday morning on the National Mall. The crowd, listening as President Barack Obama took the ceremonial oath of office for his second term, swelled with optimism for the next four years.
That's hundreds of thousands of faces, many etched, Begay said, with unforgettable expressions as they took in the moment on a chilly Washington, D.C., morning. And those faces, he also took in.
“I would have expected that many people because, you know, it's the presidential inauguration. But man, it was overpowering,” said Begay, a Cibola High School senior selected to attend the inauguration as part of a youth leadership conference.
Begay, 18, voted for Mitt Romney, but said that he still has trust in Obama and attending the inauguration was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It was phenomenal,” he said.
Begay has been in D.C. since Thursday for the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference. The conference includes workshops, a gala, a screening and panel discussion of “All the President's Men,” and keynote addresses by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and one-time presidential candidate, in addition to a spot at the presidential inauguration. His conference ends Wednesday.
Begay was up before 4 a.m. and out of his hotel at 5 to get his spot in the sea of onlookers Monday.
“It was well worth it,” he said. “The cold, the crowds, the traffic.”
This is Begay's second time in D.C. His first trip was in 2010, when he attended the National Youth Leadership Conference on the recommendation of his drama teacher, Amy Violette, and learned about the branches of government. Being an alumnus of that program allowed him to be invited back to D.C. this year.
Begay, a multi-instrument musician and honor student who is in the top 10 percent of his class, will attend the University of Arizona in the fall. He hopes to eventually become a doctor. He is also a member of the Cocopah Indian Tribe and resident of the north Cocopah reservation.
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