White House

4 students from School for Deaf and Blind will join 1,000 Idahoans at inauguration

Idaho students on their way to D.C. for presidential inauguration

Four students and two facility members from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind are getting ready to head out to witness the historic event after winning an all-expense-paid trip to the inauguration. They placed third in an online contest.
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Four students and two facility members from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind are getting ready to head out to witness the historic event after winning an all-expense-paid trip to the inauguration. They placed third in an online contest.

When students at the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind suggested entering an online contest to win a free trip to the presidential inauguration, Brian Darcy figured they had no chance.

“I couldn’t believe we won,” Darcy, the administrator of the school, said Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, four students and two faculty members from the small school in Gooding, Idaho, arrived in Washington, D.C, ready to attend the swearing-in of President-elect Donald Trump and a presidential inauguration leadership summit.

It’s history being made obviously, and I think there’s going to be a lot of people, which is something really new. Where I’m from there’s not a lot of people.

Karlee Robinson, 18, of Oakley, Idaho

Idaho will be well represented at Friday’s inauguration, which organizers say could draw a crowd of up to 900,000 on the National Mall.

1,200The number of inauguration tickets distributed by the four members of the Idaho congressional delegation

The state’s four-member congressional delegation has distributed more than 1,200 tickets, giving 85 percent of them – or more than 1,000 – to state residents, according to Robert Sumner, a spokesman for GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, the state’s senior senator.

“It’s history being made obviously, and I think there’s going to be a lot of people, which is something really new,” said Karlee Robinson, 18, of Oakley, a senior at the school in Gooding. “Where I’m from there’s not a lot of people. . . . This is the farthest I’ve ever been.”

Attendees will include Republican Gov. Butch Otter and first lady Lori Otter, who plan to watch both the inauguration ceremony and the parade.

In addition to the students from Gooding, Sumner said a dozen tickets went to 4-H students from Nez Perce, Latah, Idaho and Washington counties.

Sumner said the state’s congressional offices pooled their tickets and began distributing them on Tuesday, but some who had asked for tickets canceled due to travel costs or work or other personal obligations. But he said those tickets have been reallocated and that all 1,200 will be used.

“By way of comparison, at this point, we are running at about 100 more tickets requested and handed out than at the end of President Obama’s second inauguration,” Sumner said.

By way of comparison, at this point we are running at about 100 more tickets requested and handed out than at the end of President Obama’s second inauguration.

Robert Sumner, spokesman for GOP Sen. Mike Crapo

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, of Idaho Falls, said he’ll get up early on Friday to make sure he gets a good view of the swearing-in.

“It’s definitely going to be exciting, historic and hopefully not too wet,” said Yates, referring to the weather forecast that calls for rain on Friday.

Yates said he recalled being in Washington, D.C., in January of 2009 and watching people hug and cry in a hotel lobby as they celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama. He said it made him feel happy, even though he didn’t support Obama.

“It’s good for people to be able to celebrate these important transitions,” Yates said. “It’s probably optimistic to believe that’s the way the city will be on Friday, but it is the spirit in which I think we should approach it. . . . It’s a great part of who we are, that we should feel good about it and celebrate, regardless of how people feel about the election outcome.”

It’s a great part of who we are, that we should feel good about it and celebrate, regardless of how people feel about the election outcome.

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, of Idaho Falls

Terri Pickens, a Boise attorney who voted for Hillary Clinton, is bringing her 12-year-old daughter, Maya, to the inauguration. Her main reason for coming to Washington is to participate in Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, an event expected to draw 200,000 protesters.

After seeing an ad in the Idaho Statesman, Pickens said she decided to apply for tickets to the swearing-in ceremony as well because she wanted “to show my daughter the smooth transition of power.”

“(My daughter) and I were both terribly heartbroken about the election, but frankly when is this going to come up again for us?” she said. “I want to give my daughter the opportunity to hopefully see democracy work.”

Darcy said school officials chose the four students from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind – Robinson, Zac Jones, Enrique Lopez and Wassim Husni – after they wrote essays on why it would be important for them to attend.

The school, with 95 students, was one of three chosen among more than 35,000 schools nationwide, along with the other winners in Ballico, California, and Ozark, Arkansas. It was part of the “Champions for Change” contest sponsored by Envision, which bills itself as an experiential education organization.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Darcy said, adding that his decision to allow the students to enter the competition was easier after he learned that it would be an all-expenses paid trip: “That was one of the reasons I OKed it.”

The students, who will be in Washington until Sunday night, said they’re eager to see how Trump fares as president.

“I hope it’s good – I hope it helps us out,” Robinson said.

Lopez, of Jerome, who will turn 18 on Sunday, called Trump “a man of business and a man of great wealth” and he said he’ll be especially eager to be a witness to the swearing-in.

“His rhetoric might be a little bit too harsh, but he’s an interesting man,” Lopez said. “I get to watch history being made. I get to listen as the oath of office is being given. And you know, I can’t wait.”

Carolyn Cakir of Medill News Service contributed to this article.

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

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