WASHINGTON – Tuesday was the first day of class at Texas State University-San Marcos,but Mandy Domaschk said that,compared to the inauguration of the first African American President of the United States,the classes she missed didn't weigh much.
“There are occasions in life such as this when life is more about the experiences you have,” said Domaschk,who was among the more than 1 million people who flooded the Nation's Capital this week.
That was the general feeling among the 10 Texas State College Democrats who came out in below-freezing temperatures early Tuesday.
Domaschk,political science senior,said amid the long lines for tickets and the crowds of shoving people,the smiling faces kept her believing in “the change” they felt was happening.
“Everyone just wanted to talk,” she said about the opening ceremony concert Sunday afternoon. “They would say ‘What's your journey? Where are you from? How excited are you for this change?' So even in the cold,even when it is crowded and there are long lines,it is really nice to see a smile on everyone's face.”
Domaschk,who was staying with friends,said that,although the masses came from all over the country,they felt unified.
“We were at a little restaurant in Chinatown,and a news station was playing the ‘I Have a Dream' speech,and everyone just stopped eating and listened,” Domaschk said. “It's definitely very unified no matter if you're black,white,Republican or Democrat.”
Domaschk said she had a ticket for the purple standing area on the Capitol grounds. She estimated she stood in line with 80,000 other spectators beginning at 5 a.m.
“We didn't get inside,though,” Domaschk said. “We were all a little disappointed. The line started at this tunnel,and a riot almost started near the front of the line. It was mob like and kind of scary for a while.”
She and several friends were stuck in the tunnel under the Capitol grounds during the ceremony with people she called the “cool kids.”
“It was cool though,because someone would call their mom and have them put Obama's speech on speaker phone so we would all be huddled around these little phones,” she said.
Ryan Payne,history senior,drove to Washington. He said he was moved to the yellow seating area,closer to the Capitol,because of a lack of space in the purple standing area.
“The overflow of people ended up getting me pushed back up into the wall in the purple ticket section,” he said. “They asked me and a few other people to move up. We didn't even sit most of the time,we were standing up with them to watch.”
Joseph Rodriguez,management junior,said he did not have tickets to any standing or seated area. He found a comfortable place on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the ceremony took place,where he could still hear President Obama's speech.
“I wish his speech was longer,but it was cold,” Joseph said. “Just being there and walking along the streets and watching people listening to the speech on the radio was memorable. They were there,watching or listening in some way,all of them very proud.”
Domaschk said that,even though she was not able to see Obama being sworn in,it did not matter. She said it was the overall change that she was searching for.
“It's not about seeing the actual the ceremony,” Domaschk said. “It's about feeling the spirit of it all. It's about feeling that you are part of something bigger than us. It's about being a part of the massive pile of people who understand the huge change that is happening and what it means to them and the world.”
Members of College Democrats are not the only young Americans who got involved in last year's election. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement,voters ages 18 to 29 voted in record numbers. An estimated 23 million Americans under age 30 voted,3.4 million more than the 2004 election.
For Payne,the inauguration symbolized the closing chapter of two years he spent working with the College Democrats.
“The things Obama brought up are things that we've been trying to tell people since the beginning,” he said. “It feels good. There's a rumor about what do you do tomorrow when you wake up? Well,you start working on 2012.”