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Attending inauguration is an honor, costly

Updated: February 14, 2013 6:45AM



I’m one of the lucky folks.

I’ll be going to the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama in Washington D.C. on someone else’s dime.

Otherwise, I’d be watching the festivities on TV.

Unfortunately, an inauguration brings out the worst in our nation’s capital. It also means that some big Obama supporters are going to get snubbed.

Frankly, everyone with a cart or the means to throw a ball will be hustling a piece of the historic day.

Hotel rooms that went for $116 a night two months ago are now going for $499 a night and higher. Depending on the time of day you travel, a round-trip flight from Chicago to D.C. anytime within the next week can cost nearly $1,700.

“The demand for hotels outstripped the supply more than two months before the Jan. 20 inauguration…even campsites are filling up,” reported the New York Times recently.

The South Shore Drill Team, one of two groups from Chicago selected to participate in the inaugural events, is still trying to meet its fund-raising goal.

The organization intends to take 54 kids and 12 adults on the trip.

“So far we’ve gotten about $11,000 in online contributions, $2,500 from a small cell phone company, [Patel Mobile] and Walgreen’s gave us $10,000. We need about $20,000 more,” said Sara Vlajcic, an administrator for the drill team.

The team will be staying at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD. Every time the group sits down for a meal, it will cost approximately $1,200.

“We are hoping for a major donor, but failure is not an option,” Vlajcic said.

Walt Whitman’s Soul Children of Chicago will be the headline act for kid’s inaugural concert on Jan. 19.

“We were actually personally invited by Mrs. Obama. We performed when she came in town for NATO,” noted Tenille Brooks, the publicist and social media director for the choir.

She pointed out that Johnny Wright, the First Lady’s Hairstylist, is alum of the “ Soul Children.”

“We are taking 42 children. McDonald’s and Hilton have given us some awesome support. It is amazing,” Brooks said.

“It’s very expensive, especially when you call to say you need 18 rooms. But we just performed for the Hilton’s Worldwide Conference, and they were so moved by the performance, they were able to give us a discounted rate. It is an honor and a privilege for the organization as a whole and speaks to the kids’ hard work. We’ve been blessed,” she said.

Hopefully, the inclusion of these talented Chicago youth will take the sting out of the disappointment others may be feeling about not being part of the inaugural celebrations.

Beverly Reed-Scott, a local poet and grassroots activist, who had a hand in introducing Obama to the black activist community, had hoped that she would have a real shot at delivering the inaugural poem this time around.

Instead, the honor went to Richard Blanco, a 44-year-old gay Cuban-American poet. Blanco will be the youngest and the first Hispanic to recite a poem at a presidential swearing-in ceremony.

Reed-Scott’s poem, “We, He,” explores the strong link between Obama’s ascension and the community:

“Yes we came, we came

The articulate, the intelligent, the privileged and undecided

The insolent, the rhythmic, the despised and denied/

The famous, the activist, the republican and undecided/

The affluent, the near ruined, the farmer…to decide

That history would now bear the brand of our say…”

“I kind of saw it as a cause and a way to get people who live in the Englewood’s of America to see that you can recover from your circumstances,” Reed-Scott told me.

“It takes hard work and dedication, but you can get there. That voice is missing,” she said.

Of course, there are probably a lot of Chicagoans who feel they were jilted by the Obama presidency.

After all, he shed his adopted city when he stepped onto the national stage.

But the inaugural committee’s inclusion of these talented youth groups shows Chicago still holds a special place in President Obama’s heart.

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BTW: The South Shore Drill Team still needs your help to get to D.C. Please go to www.southshoredrillteam.org to donate.



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