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‘I was there’: inaugural volunteers a part of history

Karen Froslid Jones could’ve enjoyed the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Barack Obama from the steps of the Capitol—or at least from the comfort of her own living room. Instead, the Red Cross volunteer signed up to tend to distressed spectators and stressed emergency personnel on the National Mall.

Jones, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, forfeited a view to work at the Red Cross canteen and be part of history.

“Watching the inauguration is an awe-inspiring experience, so to be able to contribute to making the whole thing run more smoothly is very exciting and tremendously rewarding,” said Jones, who anticipated working a 13-hour shift, feeding firefighters and police and providing first aid to spectators. “My role is pretty small and not too glamorous, but even small acts of assistance can make a big difference.”

Jones was one of many AU community members volunteering at the inauguration of the 44th president. Here are some of their stories:

• Alicia Mandac just wanted to be involved in the inauguration festivities. “I would’ve been happy to man the Port-a-Potties—anything to say I was there,” laughed the academic counselor in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Thankfully, Mandac, one of 15,000 Inaugural Committee volunteers, got a better gig, greeting inaugural ball-goers at the Washington Convention Center.

Her assignment won’t require a sparkly gown or stilettos, but Mandac was prepared to wear a smile well into the early hours of the morning on what she said will be “literally the longest day of my life.” Mandac also had tickets for the morning inauguration ceremony to round out her “once-in-a-lifetime experience—something I’ll never forget!”

• As the communications officer for Mobilize.org, a D.C.-based advocacy group aimed at the millennial generation, sophomore Chris Golden ’11 was geared up to help coordinate programming for the LINK-Live Inaugural Gala at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, utilizing Web 2.0 technology to bring the festivities to people beyond the Beltway.

Using streaming video, Twitter, and other social media, Golden was to document the festivities at the Youth Inaugural Ball, a gala geared toward young voters. One of six bloggers in cities across the country, including San Francisco and New York, Golden is excited “to connect everyone who couldn’t be in Washington on the historic day . . . to give people the full experience of inauguration day, even if they didn’t have a ticket,” he said. “This is something every American should be a part of.”

Anne Kaiser, a CAS academic counselor, planned to join 200 other returned Peace Corps volunteers to march in the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, following the swearing-in of the president.

Kaiser, who also marched in the parade in 1997 for President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration, calls the experience “thrilling.”

“In typical Peace Corps fashion, we’ll walk casually down the street—not marching in step,” laughed Kaiser, who served in the Corps from 1976 to 1979. “It’s a great feeling to be a part of the parade and share that experience with my Peace Corps friends.”

• Adele Schmidt, adjunct professor in the School of Communication, harnessed the inauguration as a “teachable moment,” tasking her graduate students with creating a three- to four-minute inauguration documentary about the event.

One team of four students was to capture an African American’s reflections on Obama’s historic election, while another team was set to explore the marketing efforts around the inauguration, including street vendors hawking everything from T-shirts to commemorative coffee mugs.

Students will put at least two days worth of work into their short clips, said Schmidt. The final cut will be screened for the class on Feb. 3.

“The students are very motivated and excited to work on the project—despite the fact it’s an official holiday,” she said.

• Braving the cold and the crowds, Sarah Bayne, director of employee benefits and communication will set off from her Arlington home at 5 a.m. on inauguration day to document the event for a short film.

Video camera in hand, Bayne, planned to trek across the Memorial Bridge, past the Lincoln Memorial, chatting with revelers along the way. “The goal is just to see how far I can get,” said Bayne. “As is the case with lots of projects, you don’t know where you’ll end up.”

Bayne is pursuing an MFA in visual art through the Vermont College of Fine Arts. The video project is part of an “election diary” she started around the conventions, to document her reaction to the campaign.

“The inauguration seemed like a nice coda.”

• Millions of spectators were expected to flood the city Tuesday, and Guardian Angel Michael Cartier ’10 will patrol Washington to keep them safe.

Cartier planned to don the Angels’ signature red beret on inauguration day to assist with crowd control and keep an eye peeled for pickpockets and other threats. Cartier, who joined the group in October 2008, was among several hundred Guardian Angels set to lend a hand on the big day.

“As a resident of this city, I feel I have a responsibility to keep the city safe,” said the history major, who normally volunteers for the Angels 4 to 10 hours each week.

“I have some friends who work on the Hill, and they were working on the internal mechanics of the event,” Cartier said. “It will be a thrill for me to be on the street, though, to see the crowds and really feel the excitement, firsthand.”