Education

Wyo. Band Marches to Different Inauguration Drumbeat

By Joetta L. Sack — January 29, 1997 4 min read
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Washington

Joe Hodgson could not have been happier just to be on the sidelines at last week’s Inauguration Day parade.

The 16-year-old percussionist from Wyoming and his fellow players in the Cody High School band had worried that they would not perform here at all after being denied their anticipated marching orders for the parade.

The band had worked all of last year raising about $100,000 to make the trip. Believing that they were the only band from Wyoming that had applied, each of the 94 members plunked down a $1,000 nonrefundable deposit for the trip last fall.

But last month, the state’s invitation went to a Jackson Hole concert band instead. Disappointed but not ready to give up, the Cody band decided to make the trip anyway, and its members began searching for another place to showcase their talents.

President Clinton’s second inauguration turned into a learning experience for many in the huge crowd drawn to the nation’s capital, including students from as far away as Hawaii and as close as the Washington suburbs.

Parents arrived with their children for a chance to see the historic event. The Jan. 20 festivities fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday for most students and government employees.

“We made the time to come out and witness the last president of the 20th century,” said Ann Kinard of nearby Columbia, Md. She had briefed her 5-year-old twins, Jonathan and Joshua, on what the day meant and what to expect before the events.

The teenagers from Cody, meanwhile, became minor celebrities. After the band’s plight was detailed on the front page of The Washington Post, they got so many offers to play that they had to turn some down. President Clinton even requested that organizers make sure the band played somewhere in the parade.

In the end, the band also found gigs at the Kennedy Center, on the steps of the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, and at a reception at the Grand Hyatt hotel. Finally, they also got invitations to an inaugural ball.

Mr. Hodgson was overwhelmed, but thrilled, with the pageantry of the events and the city itself. “This is the biggest city I’ve been to,” he said. “It’s cool.”

Close to History

One thing the Cody band did not receive was a surprise cameo appearance from Mr. Clinton.

Anticipating that the president would not come to them, the Kariak High School band from Mukilteo, Wash., brought along a life-size cardboard cutout of Mr. Clinton playing his saxophone. Director Brian Steves positioned it by the horn section and attached the school flag while the band played in pre-inaugural festivities.

“It’s been in our band room for a couple years, and it seemed appropriate” to bring to Washington, said Mr. Steves, a Clinton fan who said he was pleased to elect a president who would be at home in the brass section.

Cardboard stand-ins for the Democratic president were a popular substitute. A few blocks away, Abe Cribeiro, 11, posed for a picture shaking the corrugated president’s hand.

He said he was impressed with the actual Mr. Clinton’s inaugural address.

“If I were older, I might have voted for him,” Mr. Cribeiro said.

In keeping with the theme of making improvements, children along the parade route had minor suggestions for how things could have been better.

Joey Robinson, 10, of Germantown, Md., perched atop a portable toilet for a better view of Mr. Clinton’s motorcade.

“We decided that [the inauguration] was too big not to see,” said his mother, Madessa Robinson. “He’s very excited--he’s just disappointed he didn’t get to meet the president.”

And Young Marines from Lancaster County, Pa., invited to help with security, distribute press passes, and sell refreshments, had an idea, too. Amber Knabel, 12, a member of the squad of students ages 8 to 18 dressed in military garb, echoed the thoughts of many others this January afternoon: “It would have been better if it were warmer.”

‘A real opportunity to build better lives’

Following are excerpts from President Clinton’s inaugural speech, delivered last week on the steps of the Capitol.

... Now, for the third time, a new century is upon us, and another time to choose. We began the 19th century with a choice, to spread our nation from coast to coast. We began the 20th century with a choice, to harness the Industrial Revolution to our values of free enterprise, conservation, and human decency. Those choices made all the difference. At the dawn of the 21st century a free people must now choose to shape the forces of the Information Age and the global society, to unleash the limitless potential of all our people, and, yes, to form a more perfect union.

... The preeminent mission of our new government is to give all Americans an opportunity--not a guarantee, but a real opportunity--to build better lives.

... Our rich texture of racial, religious, and political diversity will be a godsend in the 21st century. Great rewards will come to those who can live together, learn together, work together, forge new ties that bind together.

... In this new land, education will be every citizen’s most prized possession. Our schools will have the highest standards in the world, igniting the spark of possibility in the eyes of every girl and every boy. And the doors of higher education will be open to all. The knowledge and power of the Information Age will be within reach not just of the few, but of every classroom, every library. Our streets will echo again with the laughter of our children, because no one will try to shoot them or sell them drugs anymore. Everyone who can work, will work, with today’s permanent underclass part of tomorrow’s growing middle class. New miracles of medicine at last will reach not only those who can claim care now, but the children and hard-working families too long denied.

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