Children, Teenagers Assigned Roles in Clinton Inaugural Drama
WASHINGTON--As this city nears its quadrennial peak of pomp and circumstance for the inauguration of President-elect Bill Clinton next week, thousands of young people are preparing for their parts in the inaugural drama.
Children and teenagers will be evident everywhere during the five-day festivities, inaugural organizers say, from the select group of students who will accompany the President-elect on a bus trip from Monticello to Washington to the last high school musical group that will march up Pennsylvania Avenue in the Inaugural Parade.
"It is important to us to reach out to children and young people,'' Hillary Clinton said in a statement released last week by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. "We must afford them every opportunity to participate in the making of their own history.''
The Clintons have invited eight children to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home near Charlottesville, Va., to discuss the meaning of the Declaration of Independence at the starting point of the Jan. 17 bus trip. The children, ages 7 to 17, were winners of a "Dear Mr. President'' letter contest sponsored by The Washington Post.
The children's events will continue on Jan. 19, the eve of Inauguration Day, with two one-hour television specials airing live from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts here.
"The Presidential Inaugural Celebration for Children'' will air on the cable Disney Channel at 3 P.M. Eastern and Pacific times. The special will feature Fred Rogers of public television's "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,'' the Muppets, and the country-music performers Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris.
"The Presidential Inaugural Celebration for Youth'' will air on the Disney Channel at 5 P.M. Eastern and Pacific times. It will include performances by such pop-music artists as Boyz II Men and Celine Dion, as well as by the Joffrey Ballet.
Disney will make both shows available to all basic-cable-television subscribers.
For students in middle and junior high school who cannot go to Washington, the Inaugural Committee is reaching out with a classroom poster entitled "Bill Clinton and Al Gore's Excellent Inauguration.''
Some 200,000 posters and teacher's guides have been mailed to more than 26,000 middle schools across the country, said Linda Burstyn, an Inaugural Committee official who worked on the poster.
"One of the main goals of the poster is to let students feel that becoming President is achievable,'' she said. "It has a section called 'Could this Be You?' It is to help them feel that the White House is not completely inaccessible to them.''
The poster is available by calling (800) 238-1133, ext. 4458.
Teachers' Low-Key Role
Unlike President Bush's inauguration four years ago, however, teachers have not been given any special role during next week's activities. In 1989, Mr. Bush made a point to invite five classroom teachers from every state for an expense-paid inauguration visit that included an education forum and tickets to an inaugural ball.
Even so, noted Mary Ellen Shearer, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers, any number of professional educators from around the country will be participating in the inaugural events. Both the A.F.T. and the National Education Association endorsed Mr. Clinton.
The two unions will co-sponsor a reception on Jan. 18 here in honor of Secretary of Commerce-designate Ronald H. Brown, who as head of the Democratic National Committee was credited with an important role in Mr. Clinton's electoral victory.
About 1,000 educators and "friends of education'' are expected at the reception, said Charles Erickson, a spokesman for the N.E.A. No word was available whether the throng might include the President-elect or his designee to run the Education Department, former Gov. Richard W. Riley of South Carolina.
On Inauguration Day, numerous education organizations and private corporations are sponsoring an evening "Forum on Technology in Education.''
The Jan. 20 forum, to be held at the Tech 2000 demonstration center in downtown Washington, will feature interactive and multimedia exhibits by the Discovery Channel, Eastman Kodak, and NYNEX, among others.
The International Society for Technology in Education is one of the primary hosts for the event.
The Arkansas Contingent
Another contingent of educators at the events will be made up of teachers from Mr. Clinton's home state of Arkansas. Among them will be Sid Johnson, the president of the Arkansas Education Association.
"I've known [Mr. Clinton] for 22 years,'' said Mr. Johnson. "I have been president [of the A.E.A.] while we were fussing with him and then resolving our differences.''
The union clashed with then-Governor Clinton for several years in the 1980's over the his proposal to require competency testing of teachers. But the A.E.A. patched up its differences with Mr. Clinton in time to endorse his Presidential candidacy.
Mr. Johnson said he and other Arkansas residents were virtually overrun with social opportunities during the inaugural week, from the teachers' unions' party to a Blue Jeans Bash sponsored by the state's Congressional delegation.
"I don't know what I'm going to do,'' Mr. Johnson sighed. "All these events have alcohol, and I don't drink.''