Arizonans at inaugural for numerous reasons - Tucson News Now

Arizonans at inaugural for numerous reasons

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By Mary Shinn / Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Jacqueline Adams worked tirelessly for President Barack Obama's first election, only taking a day off for her aunt's 90th birthday before getting back to work.

But the Phoenix Democrat missed Obama's historic first inauguration in 2009. She wasn't about to let that happen a second time.

"I'm really proud of our president," said Adams, who worked on Obama's re-election campaign and who will be on hand Monday to see him take the oath of office a second time.

Adams is just one of many Arizonans making the trip to Washington for Monday's Inauguration Day festivities. They include National Guardsmen who will help run the event, musicians who will march in the inaugural parade and students here to witness history firsthand, along with an estimated 800,000 others.

"There's nothing like seeing something in action rather than just reading it in a textbook," said Sarah Burgess, a teacher from Hamilton High School in Chandler, who will be in Washington with her students.

Burgess is here on her second inaugural trip because "feeling the excitement in the air" makes lessons far more memorable, she said.

While this year's inauguration is not expected to be as large as Obama's first, which drew more than 1 million spectators, excitement is just as high among those who are coming.

"We did everything we could to make sure we could all go," said Lisa Tucker, a senior at Thunderbird High School, where students started raising money in August for this trip. The student council at the Phoenix school was able to raise $15,000 through car washes and other fundraisers to cut costs for the whole group.

The students got good news a few days ago: A Thunderbird alumnus who works in the White House gave them tickets right in front of the podium during the swearing-in and on risers during the parade.

The unexpected news of the tickets "has just put them overboard," Thunderbird trip adviser Melissa Zimmerman said of her students.

Patrick Farrlley, a social studies teacher at Higley High School in Gilbert, also planned a trip to Washington to give his students a new perspective on government in action.

"Going to a huge event like the inauguration would hopefully energize them to participate more in government," Farrlley said.

For other Arizonans, the day won't spur participation – they're participating already.

Four members of the Arizona chapter of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association are here to march in Monday's inaugural parade with 220 other association members from across the country.

"It lets us be on the national stage and the world stage," said Derek Hassell, a percussionist from Phoenix.

"Every piece we're playing has some connection to the gay community," said    Hassell, who helped write auxiliary percussion parts for selections that include "The Edge of Glory," "Give Me Everything," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Simple Gifts."

Another band member, Heather Stewart of Mesa, wanted to come in part because performing on such a "phenomenal" stage would further the cause of gay rights.

"I didn't care how much it would cost," she said.

Eighteen Air National Guardsmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix and 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson arrived this week as part of the 6,000 guardsmen from around the country who have been brought in for security. The Arizona guardsmen will be working 12 hours a day, preparing and serving meals in a D.C. elementary school for their fellow soldiers.

For Master Sgt. Mike Hawkins, the inauguration will be his last deployment after 33 years of military service, including 12 active-duty years in the Navy. He was pleased his last deployment is in support of a historic occasion, with people he considers family.

"It's good to be with the guys for the last time," said Hawkins, of Coolidge.

Like fellow Democrat Jacqueline Adams, Phoenix resident Rita Jo Anthony is coming to the inauguration just to celebrate after months of hard work on the campaign.

Anthony said she was impressed with Obama when he was still a senator from Illinois, and that his campaign for president motivated her to start volunteering even though she had never even been to Democratic headquarters. Now, she said, she has volunteered for the Democratic Party every week for the last five years.

"I think he is an extremely competent president," she said. "If he can do his job, I can do my job once a week."

When Anthony was not able to get tickets from her own congressman's office, she turned to freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, and was able to get tickets.

"I was really motivated to go since I helped in my itty-bitty, small way," she said.

Adams, who was ultimately hired as the party's volunteer coordinator, said she was never nervous about Obama's re-election chances.

"I just knew the president was going to win," she said.

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