Amid tumult, Rogers students felt power of democracy at inauguration

by Joni Astrup

Elk River Star News

Left to right: Jeremy Hood, Kyle Kornovich, Kathryn Jewett, Gavin Nordberg, Zoë Fezler, Elizabeth Liebert, Erik Fordahl, Cameron Kline and Abbie Hood paused to have their photo taken on the day of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Capitol is in the background. Photos courtesy of Jeremy Hood.
Left to right: Jeremy Hood, Kyle Kornovich, Kathryn Jewett, Gavin Nordberg, Zoë Fezler, Elizabeth Liebert, Erik Fordahl, Cameron Kline and Abbie Hood paused to have their photo taken on the day of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Capitol is in the background. Photos courtesy of Jeremy Hood.

When Donald Trump took the oath of office to become America’s 45th president, a teacher and students from Rogers High School were there to witness history being made.

Jeremy Hood, a social studies teacher at the school, and his wife, Abbie, led a group of seven RHS students that included Lizzie Liebert, Kathryn Jewett, Zoë Felzer, Cameron Kline, Gavin Nordberg, Erik Fordahl and Kyle Kornovich.

“As tumultuous as this election has been, this one is going to be studied,” Hood said. “To say that you were there is kind of cool, especially for the students.”

They arrived at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., about four hours before the inauguration, where the area was already packed with people. They went through security similar to what you’d find at an airport and then stood in their assigned area to wait for the ceremony to begin.

Standing in a sea of spectators, a group from Rogers High School watched on a large screen as Donald Trump was sworn in as U.S. president in an outdoor ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
Standing in a sea of spectators, a group from Rogers High School watched on a large screen as Donald Trump was sworn in as U.S. president in an outdoor ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

Hood got tickets for the inauguration by contacting the offices of Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer, both congressmen from Minnesota. Their tickets got them into an area in front of the inaugural stage and off to the right. They couldn’t see the president get sworn in from where they stood, but were able to watch it on a large screen. At times they said it was hard to hear the speeches over the noise of the crowd, which was chanting slogans like “U.S.A.”

Liebert described the crowd as energized.

“People were talking and cheering and chanting throughout the whole entire thing,” she said.

Hood said it was a powerful moment in history, with the inauguration and protests like the Women’s March on Washington the next day all happening in the nation’s capital.

“No matter how you view America right now, you can appreciate both sides, in that democracy was there in D.C., the center of democracy. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, it was there. You felt the power of it,” he said.

Liebert said the trip was “totally worth it.”

Front row, left to right: Rogers High students Kathryn Jewett, Elizabeth Liebert and Zoë Fezler and back row, left to right: Cameron Kline, Erik Fordahl, Gavin Nordberg and Kyle Kornovich posed for a photo at the site of the presidential inauguration.
Front row, left to right: Rogers High students Kathryn Jewett, Elizabeth Liebert and Zoë Fezler and back row, left to right: Cameron Kline, Erik Fordahl, Gavin Nordberg and Kyle Kornovich posed for a photo at the site of the presidential inauguration.

“I’ve always been a traveler and the whole idea of going to an inauguration is something my family has always wanted to do,” she said.

Both Liebert and Hood think everyone should experience an inauguration first-hand once in their lives just to see the peaceful transfer of power.

“That’s what struck me the most,” Hood said. “We live in such an amazing place.”

Memorials, Holocaust Museum

In addition to being part of the inauguration, the group also saw many points of interest in Washington, D.C., including Arlington National Cemetery, the Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon, the Holocaust Museum and most of the memorials on the National Mall. They walked about 18 miles in one day alone as they visited the cemetery and the memorials.

Liebert said her favorite part was the Holocaust Museum.

“We had learned about it in school, but you don’t really hear all the details,” she said.

She also liked seeing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Photographed in front of the Jefferson Memorial were, front row, left to right: Kathryn Jewett, Zoë Felzer and Elizabeth Liebert. Back row, left to right: Cameron Kline, Gavin Nordberg, Erik Fordahlm and Kyle Kornovich, all of Rogers High School.
Photographed in front of the Jefferson Memorial were, front row, left to right: Kathryn Jewett, Zoë Felzer and Elizabeth Liebert. Back row, left to right: Cameron Kline, Gavin Nordberg, Erik Fordahlm and Kyle Kornovich, all of Rogers High School.

Hood’s favorite stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“It was powerful,” he said. Visiting the cemetery and the war memorials gave him a renewed appreciation for the people who have sacrificed their lives for the democratic process.

Hood said students from Rogers High School went to the inauguration four years ago with another teacher who wanted to pass on the tradition and emailed the social studies department about going this year. Hood took up the idea and agreed to lead the trip. All students from the school were welcome to participate.

He said the seven students who went were all fun, well-behaved, respectful and eager to learn.

They traveled with students from Litchfield, Blaine and Rosemount in Minnesota and Hayward in Wisconsin.