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MIT Students Head to D.C. for Clinton Inauguration

By Eric Sit

Forty MITstudents will attend the 1997 Presidential Inauguration of President Bill Clinton inWashington, D.C., on Jan. 20 as part of a trip sponsored by the MITCollege Democrats.

Tentative activities include participating in the pre-inaugural festivities that include a fireworks display, touring D.C.'s historic museums and monuments, attending the inaugural ceremony, watching the inaugural parade, and meeting with the nation's politicians.

Participants will attend the inaugural festivities from Jan. 18 to 21. They will stay at the Washington International American Youth Hostel, less than 10 minutes away from the White House.

Massachusetts Democratic senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, along with Representative Joseph P. Kennedy (D-Mass.), have been invited to do photo-ops with the group, said trip co-organizer Areej Hussan '99, who is also co-president of the College Democrats.

"We've been working hard during the campaign season with the College Democrats, and we thought that this trip would be a good way to end it off. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Hussan said.

"We want to increase political awareness regardless of beliefs, whether Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, etc. We want to get more people involved in politics," said trip co-organizer Monisha Merchant '99, also co-president of the College Democrats.

Trip participants seem excited to take part in the inauguration. "I feel it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a presidential inauguration. I want it more for the experience of exploring Washington," said Margaret Wang '00. "I'm excited to be attending the last presidential inauguration of the millennium."

Arcell B. Frazier '97 said that he was first interested in going to the presidential inauguration ever since watching the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981. "I hope to get more excited about the political process. I always thought that the inauguration was a one day thing, not a whole weekend," he said.

Trip expenses greatly subsidized

The organizers tried to keep costs down in order to allow anyone to go regardless of financial standing, Hussan said. With sponsorship, trip expenses were reduced to $50 per person.

Sponsors for the trip included the President's Office, the Provost's Office, Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams, the Department of Political Science, and Associate Professor of Political Science Charles Stewart III.

"We hope to give some time back to MIT after this trip. We are planning on making a picture book of our trip to Washington, D.C.," Hussan said. This book will be given as a gift to those departments and alumni that sponsored the trip.

Assistant Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Katherine G. O'Dair played an integral role in the organization of the trip, Hassan and Merchant said. She was responsible for helping the trip organizers avoid problems. The Office of Government and Community Relations also aided in the organization of the trip, Hussan said.

D.C. trip oversubscribed

Although over 70 students wanted to go to Washington, D.C., space was limited to 40 students. Students were selected after composing a 150-word response to the questions, "Why do you want to attend this trip and what do you hope to get out of it?"

The purpose of the essay was to force applicants to think about why they wanted to go to Washington, D.C. A strong political interest and an interest in the change of power were some of the criteria for selection, Merchant said. From this pool, a lottery was held to select the 40 participants, she said.

The trip was publicized mainly by e-mail. Letters were sent to many student groups found on the Association of Student Activities World Wide Web page.