It was, without a word of exaggeration, the thrill of a lifetime.
First-year Osgoode Hall Law School students D’ette Bourchier, Shayna Walford and Lyndsay Hatlelid travelled to Washington, DC on Tuesday, Jan. 20 for the inauguration of Barack Obama.
They were among the crowd of more than two million people gathered in the National Mall in downtown Washington to witness history-in-the-making when Obama was sworn in as the first black president of the United States.
Right: D’ette Bourchier (left) and Shayna Walford in Washington, DC
What’s more, Hatlelid also managed to snag three tickets to the Southern States Inaugural Ball where she and her friends Tori Lord, who is in the commerce program at Queen’s University, and Dana Lord, a second-year law student at the University of Toronto, hobnobbed with Obama campaign workers, and watched the president and first lady have their first dance.
The trio spoke to their fellow classmates during Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Marilyn Pilkington’s State and Citizen course, six days after the inauguration. Still brimming with excitement, the three students relayed all the details of their once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It was just monumental for me," said Walford, adding that Obama’s election has "empowered" her and other black people. "It has given us a sense of recognition that has been missing up until now. We can really rise above the barriers put in front of us. If he can do it, we can do it."
Left: From left, Tori Lord, Osgoode student Lyndsay Hatlelid, Dana Lord near the United States Capitol
Walford’s trip to Washington was sponsored by lawyers Yola Grant and Kim Bernhardt of Grant & Bernhardt, and Bourchier’s by lawyer Geri Sanson of Sanson & Hart Barristers. "It was an amazing experience, that’s for sure," Bourchier said. "Obama’s presidency has the potential to bring people together, especially the black community."
On a whim, Hatlelid and her two friends made the 10-hour drive to Washington on the morning of Jan. 19, determined to make it to some of the inauguration events when they got there.
"We were informed by one of our friends who formally interned for one of the US Senate offices that sometimes different Senate offices have spare tickets to the actual inauguration ceremony," Hatlelid said. "After knocking door-to-door at various Senate offices in the Longworth and Cannon buildings on Capitol Hill, we finally received tickets to the event from a lovely woman who worked for a senator from Indiana. We watched the event ‘up close’ among the first 150,000 to 200,000 people."
The three women also talked to as many people as they could around the city until they were put in contact with someone who worked on the campaign in Georgia and who was able to give them three tickets to the Southern States Inaugural Ball.
"The experience to hear both Obama and Biden speak up close was surreal, as was listening to the various accounts of many guests who had been working closely with the president and his supporters since the beginning of his campaign," Hatlelid said of the inaugural ball.