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They were there

Crowds gather early morning for front-row seInauguration. | Courtesy Mark Guethle

Crowds gather early in the morning for a front-row seat at the Inauguration. | Courtesy of Mark Guethle

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Updated: March 1, 2013 6:23AM

It was a last-minute trip of a lifetime.

“Four years ago I regretted that I didn’t get off the couch and go to downtown Chicago for the victory speech when President Obama was first elected,” said Aurora resident Landa Midgley.

“When I found I was going to have the opportunity to go to this, I said, ‘I’m not going to blow it. I’m going to go.’”

Midgley received a call Saturday night, Jan. 19, from a friend offering her a set of tickets to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, just two days away. By 5 a.m. the next day, Midgley was packed and rolling her 16-year-old daughter Siobhan out of bed to try to catch an early flight to Washington, D.C.

For the mother-and-daughter team, the trip was a real-life history lesson.

After stopping to pick up tickets from the congressional office of Naperville Democrat Rep. Bill Foster, they, like thousands of other inaugural spectators, visited the recently erected Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, where a Chicago-based African American youth choir was performing.

“I believe in travel as education,” said Midgley. “That I could take my daughter and show her her government, and that the second inauguration of the first African American present happened to be on MLK Day, it just felt like serendipity.”

The two also saw witnessed the swearing in, and caught Obama’s speech Monday morning, just before running back to the airport.

“It was his last words as we were walking out that stuck with me, ‘through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall... and beyond.”

For the Midgleys, this was their first time witnessing a presidential inauguration.

But for the band and choir students of Sandwich High School, who performed in Washington earlier in the weekend during the Heritage Music Festival, the Inauguration Day trip has become tradition. In addition to their performance, they saw the sights, watched the parade, and attended the swearing-in ceremony.

All in the words

The president’s inaugural address didn’t totally sink in for Kane County Democrats Chairman Mark Guethle of North Aurora until the ride home from D.C.

“I drove there, and I went through many states — Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland,” he said. “Coming into Illinois is so much different, such a better infrastructure, we’re the hub of the Midwest.”

Guethle said Obama’s references to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure as a way forward stuck with him.

“Our investments, they make a difference in bringing companies to our state,” he said.

Sitting up close for the president’s address was a treat, but it was the speech itself that was memorable, Guethle said.

“The highlight was when he spoke about trying to create opportunities to get people back to work. I think that was really important for him to say,” said Guethle. “That, and working together as Americans.”

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