When President-elect Barack Obama gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last summer, 25-year-old Marcus Mrowka was watching.
On Election Night, the Bristol native stood in the crowd in Chicago listening to Obama address his historic victory.
And Tuesday, when Obama takes the oath of office in the nation’s capital, Mrowka will again be among the throng.
“It continues this ride,” said the 2001 Bristol Eastern High School graduate. “That’s why I came to D.C. and got involved in politics.”
Mrowka is just one of a number of Bristol residents and natives who plan to be on hand to witness Obama’s Inauguration. Though he lives there, most of the others are heading south this weekend to join the festivities.
“It’s the place to be,” said Democratic city Councilor Craig Minor, who’s taking the train with his wife, Laura Minor. “This is the most historic event I’ll ever see, probably.”
“I have to agree with you,” interjected city Councilor Mike Rimcoski, a Republican who’s going to watch on television.
Breeann Redman, a 16-year-old junior at Eastern, is also going to Washington for the festivities.
“I’m very excited, just to see this history even happen is so exciting,” she said.
Auctioneer Tim Chapulis said he knows what it’s like.
He said he stood in “an ocean of people” to see President Bill Clinton’s Inauguration. He liked it so much he returned in 1997 to see the start of Clinton’s second term.
The crowds were packed in “all around the Capitol,” Chapulis said. “There’s not a car in sight. Just people.”
He said he attended one of the inaugural balls at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where he got to see the Clintons. But he also eyeballed many other famous faces, even O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney, Johnny Cochran.
“It was great. It’s so full of history there,” Chapulis said.
Bruce Lydem, a former City Council candidate, said he’s heading to Washington, too, hoping to stand there “at the crossroads of history.”
Lydem, a union official, said that Obama’s status as the nation’s first black president makes the change so special. It’s “a part of history,” he said, and he’s excited to have the chance to participate.
Mrowka, who works for a union, said he used to listen to the stories of great leaders that his parents and grandparents remembered. He said he thought “maybe we’re not going to get one” in this generation.
But now, he said, he sees hope.
“We definitely have someone who fits the times,” Mrowka said.
He said that after seeing and hearing Obama a number of times, including some campaign rallies last year, he knows how inspiring the next president can be.
Obama has a remarkable ability to “move people” with his words. “It’s inspiring,” Mrowka said.
“For him to light up a crowd, I’ve just never seen anything like it,” Mrowka said.
Minor said he wound up with two coveted tickets to get up close during the Inauguration thanks to U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat who represents Bristol.
Minor said that he mentioned his plans to go to the event to Mayor Art Ward during a municipal conference in Cheshire one day. The mayor told Minor he’d just turned down the tickets from the congressman and “without breaking a beat” offered to try to land them for Minor.
It worked out.
“It helps to have friends in high places,” Minor said.
It’s also good to have friends who live in Washington, he said, so he and his wife have somewhere to stay.
Redman is staying at the Hilton Hotel as part of the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference, a five-day educational event that includes attendance at the Inauguration and one of the balls. She’ll also get a chance to hear from such political leaders as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Vice President Al Gore.
Redman said she’s eager to meet some “important people” and to see history unfold in front of her.
Mrowka said he’s got his tuxedo and he’s ready to have a good time at the ball, which will be his first.
He said he’d like to see Barack and Michelle Obama at the ball, one of a handful the new president will attend during the evening following the swearing-in.
That’s why he’s going, Mrowka said.
“It’s not for the cheese cubes,” he added.
PS: I'd love to hear from anyone with Bristol ties who is in Washington or has some connection to the festivities during the next few days.
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