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Concordia students await view of Washington

Joshua Stewart got to vote in a presidential election for the first time in November.

The Concordia College freshman is just days away from watching the pomp and ceremony surrounding the historic inauguration of the man he voted for.

A group of 47 students from the historically black Lutheran college depart from Selma today. They will spend three days in Washington to watch President-elect Barack Obama officially take office.

Honor students, Student Government Association members, members of the Men Center and Women Center and a select few in the general student population were selected to make the trip.

“For me to be going to a college in Selma, which is a historically black town where a lot of things happened for this right, and to see it take place is wonderful,” Stewart said.

The Men and Women centers were designed for the educational and social development of students.

Men Center president Randy Arnold, a 25-year-old junior from Tallahassee, Fla., said this trip is special to him and his peers for several reasons. Several students are from Alabama and don’t get the opportunity to travel outside the state, much less take a bus 850 miles for an event significant to national and world history.

“We won’t get to touch him, and it’s not like he’s Jesus or anything; we just want to be a part of the event, pretty much,” said Arnold, SGA vice president. “We’re just going for the experience.”

The students and five chaperones are expected to arrive in Washington D.C. tonight and will stay in a dormitory at Howard University. Monday, they will take a walking tour of the capital in the morning and attend a symposium at Howard in the afternoon.

Tuesday’s schedule begins with an 8:30 a.m. departure for the National Mall, where they will witness all public events of the inaugural ceremony.

The trip has been in the making the entire fall semester, beginning with a voting drive before the Nov. 4, 2008, election.

Not only is this a first for a lot of the students, it’s a first for some of the chaperones.

“(Tuesday) just happens to be my birthday, so there couldn’t be a better celebration on the 20th,” said Ronnie Harrison, Concordia’s Upward Bound director. “There is more interest. They are more excited and involved in politics now with the election of Barack Obama.”

Record crowds predicted for the event may make moving around difficult. That doesn’t faze any of he students.

Twins Christy and Courtney Pickens, 19, are proud of the opportunity to represent Selma and their native Tuscaloosa.

“No matter how many people are going to be there, no matter how hard it is to see Obama, just being there and just seeing the crowds is special,” Christy Pickens said. “We’re just going to take pictures and be in the crowd. If we’re the last in the crowd, we’re still going to be happy.”