Minnesotans travel to D.C.by Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Washington D.C. is getting increasingly crowded with visitors coming to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Today, tens of thousands of vistors lined up near the Capitol in order to get tickets for the big event.
The lines of people trying to pick up their tickets to the inauguration snaked around and in between the Capitol office buildings. Traffic officers made sure people stayed on the sidewalks and kept the steady stream of auto traffic moving along. The people waiting in line were holding confirmation letters from elected officials, telling them where to pick up their tickets.
They were the target audience education activist Ralph Crowder was looking for.
"Thank you for listening to us and urge you to keep your eyes and ears open - for the state of public education for black children in America. We can no longer accept our children not performing at grade level," said Crowder.
Crowder came from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. during the inauguration just so he could bring his message to large amounts of people. After making his way past the serpentine queues of people, he ran into Titilayo Bediako, another Minnesotan with a passion for closing the educational achievement gap.
Bediako is the head of the We Win Institute, the Minneapolis-based non-profit that seeks to supplement students' public school education with African-centered curriculum.
Bediako brought two Minnesota students with her. The young women were the winners of an essay contest sponsored by the Institute and the trip is their prize.
The two students are Jaleice Johnson, a student at Cooper High School, and Estrella Seals, a student at Cherokee Heights Middle school.
The girls' chaperone and mentor Titilayo Bediako who says the trip has been fun so far. She says yesterday they saw Rev. Jeremiah Wright speak at the Howard University Chapel.
"From there we took the Metro down to the concert on the Mall, and there was just million of people, and these young ladies, now, they could manuever. I couldn't keep up with them. They were scooting in and between and around people," said Bediako.
There's another Minnesotan standing right behind Bediako and the young women. However, Elena Leikikh is not affiliated with the girls, and she is not a native Minnesotan.
"I emigrated from the Soviet Union with my folks in 1979, so I always dreamed of coming here," said Leikikh.
Leikikh lives in St. Paul. She got tickets for the Inaugural from Cngresswoman Betty McCollum. And she says having grown up under an oppressive Soviet government, she doesn't mind waiting in line in order to witness the change of power in the U.S.
"I had a 'proud to be an American' moment right after the election after Barack won, and I've been on a high ever since. This is just a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I've been overwhelmed with emotions," said Leikikh.
Leikikh adds that she's thankful that her parents had the drive and ability to bring her here. She's also thankful that her friend Kate Meyers owns homes in both St. Paul and Washington D.C. Meyers is playing host and like her houseguest, she's also an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama.
"He's thought about this. He's ambitious. He is ambitious, but you have to be. He's a leader. He's saying the right things. He's someone who doesn't see black and white, but he is black. And that's important. It's important for the country," said Leikikh.
Washingotn D.C. officials say the throngs of visitors is expected to swell to a few million for tomorrow's inauguration and parade.
- All Things Considered, 01/19/2009, 5:54 p.m.