In the vastness of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium parking lot in Washington, D.C., a caravan of buses carrying a variety of groups, from churchgoers to unions, arrived early Monday for the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
Among the more than 800,000 people who attended the second inauguration of President Barack Obama were 38 members of the Martin Luther King. Jr. Coordinating Committee of West Palm Beach, a historically black non-profit group dedicated to preserving the memory of Dr. King.
They chartered a bus from West Palm Beach to D.C. for the inauguration, which also coincided with the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
“It was a second history in the making,” Samore Agrawal, 26, a part-time radio producer and one of the MLKCC members from Riviera Beach, said.
The 18 to 29 age demographic represents almost one-fifth (19 percent) of President Obama’s 2012 voter total, up 1 percent from 2008. Obama received 60 percent of the youth vote, compared to 37 percent for challenger Mitt Romney, apparently in part because of his message to young people during the campaign — and on Monday.
During his second inaugural speech, Obama said that America’s journey is not complete “until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce.”
And support for Obama showed at the inauguration. Youths represented a large part of the huge throng that turned out for the event, among them younger ones holding the hands of their parents and college students with friends.
The 20-somethings wove around multiple barricades and walked miles in sub-50 degree weather to catch a glimpse of the president. In the non-ticketed portion of the National Mall setting, they had to contend with a malfunctioning Jumbotron. Yet even so, thousands stood to hear the audio.
Even Cuban-American inaugural poet Richard Blanco, at an “older” 44, represents youth in the South Florida community. He graduated from Florida International University (twice), the second time with an MFA in creative writing in 1997, in a far different college climate from what the school is today.
But, like Miami’s Freedom Tower, which he referenced Monday in his poem One Today, young means “jutting into a sky.”
I attended the inauguration along with five other student journalists from Florida International University. We reported on the MLKCC group, telling the story through their eyes. We documented everything from the rest stops to the children, as young as 4, who made the trip. We tweeted, instagrammed, photographed, wrote and found time for sleep.
Despite the long bus ride and walking for miles, reporting on my first presidential inauguration is an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life. The relative youthfulness of the FIU poet and President Obama himself made us see the impact that people such as I can have at a young age. I simultaneously saw and reported on history.
The youth generation and the college culture are more important than ever in today’s economic landscape. College students, and even more so the student veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to take advantage of the post- 9/11 G.I. Bill, are today’s job seekers.
Agrawal spent the bus ride up to D.C. editing sound clips on Audacity for a radio segment. While she did not get to see much of the actual inauguration, she was thrilled to hear the president’s speech in person.
“Obama’s speech was my favorite part of the day,” she said. “When he spoke, he spoke from the heart, which he always does, but this time it was felt not only in the nation, but around the world.”
Anthony Cave is a Miami Herald intern and junior journalism student at Florida International University.