Youth Groups To Underscore Inauguration Theme

By Jessica L. Sandham — January 15, 1997 3 min read


Four months ago, the 67 students who sing in the chorus at a rural elementary school in Washington state had no idea they would be crossing the continent this month for President Clinton’s inauguration.

Most of the children have never even been on a plane before, much less a part of history.

Mr. Clinton surprised the chorus at Yelm Elementary School in September when he personally invited them to the nation’s capital.

The invitation came during a fall campaign visit to the West Coast, when the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped in Yelm, south of Tacoma, to hear the school’s chorus sing “It Takes a Village.” The song, written by the school’s music teacher, Lynn R. Kourehdar, reflects themes from Mrs. Clinton’s best-selling book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us.

The performance made an impression. “If my contract is renewed in November, I would like for these kids to sing that song at my inauguration,” Mr. Clinton said.

The chorus will join groups from 16 high schools and one junior high school in the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Jan. 20, following the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol. The parade is one of a host of pre- and post-inaugural ceremonies to be held Jan. 18-20.

The theme for the celebration is “An American Journey: Building a Bridge to the 21st Century.” David Seldin, the deputy press secretary for the inaugural committee, said the participation of young people in the parade is central to that theme, which Mr. Clinton stressed in his re-election bid last fall.

“We tried to look for diversity and get different types of groups involved,” Mr. Seldin said. “We didn’t want 100 college marching bands, which has been the tradition historically.”

‘Overwhelming’ Support

One of the less traditional units scheduled to march in the parade is the Grantwood All-City Drum Corps, a group from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, whose oldest member is 16 and youngest is 3.

Director Slayton Thompson said he started the drum corps out of his home six years ago when he and his wife were looking for a way to give neighborhood children something positive to focus on.

Though it began with only three students and an old set of drums, the corps now has more than 100 members and has gained statewide recognition since it was invited to join in the inaugural parade.

“I practice every week, even when I’m sick,” 8-year-old Micah Reed, one of the group’s founding members, said last week. “I can’t wait to see the president.”

The group will make its trip to Washington as economical as possible by taking buses and staying at a local youth center. Even so, Mr. Thompson said the group would never have been able to raise the roughly $30,000 needed for the trip.

But when news of the group’s invitation spread, local media organizations jumped on the story and donations began pouring in. The drum corps has now raised more than $60,000 from a variety of contributors.

“The support has been overwhelming,” Mr. Thompson said. “Even the kids have given up their allowances for this trip.”

The donations will allow parents and members of the community to join the group in Washington.

Boost for D.C.

One group that won’t have to worry about money for travel is the marching band from Shaw Junior High School, the District of Columbia’s representative in the inaugural parade.

In recent years, the band from the 75,000-student school system has marched in parades as far away as Florida’s Walt Disney World and Ontario, Canada.

However, Band Director Lloyd W. Hoover said the opportunity to march in the inaugural parade means more to the students than any past trips.

“This is an all-time high for the kids,” said Mr. Hoover, who plans to retire this spring after 42 years of teaching. “When people talk about the 1997 inauguration, they can feel proud that they were a part of it.”

Joshua Morgan, a 9th grade drum major, said that marching in the parade is also a way of showing the country that something good can come from the capital city’s much-maligned school system.

“We may live in area where bottles are busted and there’s trash in the street,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that the schools are also doing terrible things.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Whitepaper
6 Insights for Educators on Using Databases
Discover how teachers are effectively using databases with insights from educators who use Gale In Context: For Educators to collect, org...
Content provided by Gale
Curriculum Opinion Introducing Primary Sources to Students
Five educators share strategies for introducing primary sources to students, including English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Curriculum Opinion Eight Ways to Teach With Primary Sources
Four educators share ways they use primary sources with students, including a strategy called "Zoom."
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Curriculum The Dr. Seuss Controversy: What Educators Need to Know
The business that manages Dr. Seuss' work and legacy will cease publishing six books due to racist stereotypes and offensive content.
5 min read
A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair on March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator's legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children's titles including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" and "If I Ran the Zoo," because of insensitive and racist imagery.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would cease publication of several of the author's children's titles because of insensitive and racist imagery.
Steven Senne/AP