Sunday, February 22, 2009

Your Parent's Priorities Start with YOU

The other day, a friend of ours told us that an old article that People Magazine did in 1995 about my dad taking me to work with him when I was little had popped up on a Google search. It's missing all of the 'interesting' pictures that appeared in the original article (like the one of my dad changing my diaper in his office. Yeah...).

(You can click here to read the article)

Reading this story reminded me of one of the most important things that kids can do to make a difference in our country--Make issues that are important to kids (YOU!) a priority with the adults around you.

The greatest thing that you can do for our country might be to simply remind your parents and other adults of what's most important for your future. Schools (so that you can get a good education no matter where you live), affordable healthcare (so that they can afford to take you to the doctor when you're sick), jobs (so that they can pay for your food, clothes, home and other things) and safety (so that we can all be safe and healthy wherever we are) should be some of the most important issues on adults' minds.

In the current economy, some of the most important necessities for kids might seem like luxuries. But when teachers, policemen, firemen and others lose their jobs, this really hurts kids.

TAKE ACTION: Talk to your parents this week about an issue that's important to you. Ask them for their opinions, then tell them what you think, too.
Topic ideas might include:
*What can you and your parents can do to improve your educational experience? Could your parent volunteer at your school? Could they devote 30 minutes each school night to help you with homework that you don't understand? Could you donate books that you don't read anymore to the school library or to disadvantaged children?
*What sorts of things can you and your family do to help ensure your safety at home, at school or in your community? Could you work with your parents to develop a safety plan to figure out what you would do to be safe if there was a fire in your house? Does your family have a "meeting place" where everyone knows to go in case there is an emergency and you either have to leave your house or you can't get to your house?
*What is an issue that is important to you that you would like to learn more about? (ask your parents to help you gather and understand the information on your chosen topic)

Monday, February 2, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration

Day 7: January 20, 2009
Part Three: The MTV Youth Ball
The Washington Hilton

We were SO excited on Monday when we were given tickets to one of the two televised balls, the MTV Youth Ball. There were 10 official balls that President and Mrs. Obama attended. The two televised balls, The Neighborhood Ball (televised live on ABC) and The MTV Youth Ball (televised live on MTV) were evidently the smallest and least crowded balls.

We were amazed that the ballroom wasn't crowded at all. That meant that we had a close-up view of all of the evening's events and it was really easy to get around.

We got there at 9PM and the ball was just getting started. Our seats were right beside the MTV stage where MTV News Team member Sway was hosting the live broadcast of the ball. We had only been there a few minutes when Kid Rock (at left) took to the stage. His set was great and he sang "All Summer Long".

Next up was Kanye West. I didn't know his music so well, but everybody else seemed to. The crowd was totally pumped for his set. We saw Rosario Dawson, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and other celebrities all having fun.

Usher was one of the 'reporters' for MTV's live broadcast of the ball. During one of his breaks, Usher invited us back into his "private getaway" to meet and talk to him and have our picture taken with him. We also thought that the lady with him was his handler (the person who makes sure he's not being mauled by fans and that he gets where he's supposed to be on time for the broadcast). But some friends from MTV later told us that she was his wife, Tameka. They were both so nice to us. Usher has some new fans in our family now.

While the Marine Band was setting up for the Obama's first dance, we were sitting beside the MTV stage talking to some of the staff. One of them said into their walkie-talkie "We have Tobey," and I realized that I was standing right beside Spiderman! Tobey McGuire talked to us for a second and was so nice when we asked if we could have our picture taken with him. It was so cool. I mean...SPIDEY! Fun.

Next, President and Mrs. Obama arrived. President Obama spoke about the important role America's youth played in the election and about how he hoped the youth would put their enthusiasm into service and building a better world for their futures. Then they danced while the Marine band played "At Last". The ballroom was lit up the entire time by all of the flashes going off. The Obama's were definitely the biggest stars of the night.

Finally, our friends from the convention, Fall Out
Boy, came out and rocked the house. They played some of their big hits, like 'Thanks for the Memories' and 'Dance, Dance'. Since they came right after the Obama's, everyone was really hyped and dancing. We read later that the guys from FOB were among the many celebrities who got to the swearing-in late (as in NOT an hour or two early...) and weren't allowed to go to their seats. They actually climbed trees on the Mall and watched the swearing-in from there. Fortunately, the got to meet the Obama's backstage at the ball.

Since I still had casts on both of my legs from my surgeries, I didn't try to walk into the crowd. But one of the ball staffers walked Wes and Mom right to the front of the stage. Wes said it was really fun.

At the end of their set, Pete Wentz threw his guitar pick to Wesley. But it bounced off of Mom and some guy picked it up off the ground before Wes could grab it. Wes was not pleased since he's a big fan of Pete's AND he plays the guitar. Still, he had a great time watching Pete, Patrick, Joe and Andy play from 10 feet away.

Before we left, Mom and I danced (as much as I could in casts!) up on the dais.

Overall, it was a great night. Washingtonian Magazine (which rated all of the balls) rated the Youth Ball 20/20--the best of the Inaugural balls. I totally agree.

TRIVIA: The first inaugural ball was held in honor of George Washington in May of 1789. But, it wasn't until the 1809 inauguration of President James Madison that the Inaugural Ball became a fixture on Washington DC's social calendar. In 1809, 400 ball tickets were sold for $4 each.
Day 7: January 20, 2009
Part Two: The Inaugural Parade
The White House
Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC

The press and inauguration officials warned us
that we would not be able to attend both the swearing-in and the parade. We would have to choose, because of all of the security checkpoints and roadblocks set up to try to keep the President safe. But when Mom's friend "Jonathan the Magnificent" gave us six 'Golden Tickets' for us to sit in the reviewing stand next to President Obama's stand at the White House, my dad and our friend Pat Merkle would NOT be deterred.

We had to be in our seats thirty minutes before the parade started. This meant that, after the inauguration, we only had an hour to go from the Capitol to the White House (sixteen loooong blocks from the Capitol) and get through all of the security lines before we would be blocked from watching the parade. Dad and Pat came up with a strategy to drive from Pat's house by the capitol, all the way downtown (away from the parade), then cut back down as close as they could get to the White House and park at Pat's office downtown(hopefully).

IT WORKED! We made it! We got front row seats right on the street where President Obama walked.

Then we waited while the parade procession slowly made its way all the way from the Capitol to our seats at the White House. Finally, we saw all of the police lights and knew that we wouldn't have to wait much longer. First, Vice President Joe Biden and Mrs. Biden got out of their car and walked in front of us. Their family was walking with them, too. They looked really happy.

Next, we saw the new Presidential limosine coming toward us with police and Secret Service people everywhere around it. Just as the President's limo got close to the Presidential reviewing stand beside us, the limo stopped and the Obama's stepped out. They waved at everyone and started walking down the street.

First, they walked in front of their stand where their families and closest friends were waiting for them. Then, they walked in front of us. It was so cool! They waved right at us! Luckily, my dad took the picture to the left just as they were waving at us.

After the Obama's passed our stand, they got back in their limo and drove around the corner, past the OEOB (Old Executive Office Building, where the Vice President's office is located.) A few minutes later, we watched the Obama's come into their reviewing stand and greet their family and friends.

In this picture of Wes and me, you can see the Obama's right between us in their stand.
It was great seeing the President and First Lady up close, but we were FROZEN! So we left the parade and came back to the Merkle's so that we could get ready for the MTV Youth Ball!

TRIVIA: Martin Van Buren's 1837 Inaugural parade was the first to include floats.
TRIVIA: In 1881, President Garfield became the first President to review his Inaugural parade from a stand in front of the White House

Sunday, February 1, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration: Day 7

Day 7: January 20, 2009
Part One: The Swearing-In Ceremony
US Capitol Building, West Front

Today was really exciting. And it was COLD!!!. Fortunately we had enough hand and toe warmers for us, and some left over for the Coast Guard guys who worked as ushers for hours in the cold without coats. We wore six layers of clothes. We put hand warmers on our heads inside our hats. We still froze.

But if there is one thing I've learned, it's that if you want a decent seat for an inaugural event, you have to get there early. There are no reserved seats--for anyone--except the President, Vice President, and their families. For everyone else--even Members of Congress--there are reserved sections. There might be thousands of seats in your section. You're either in the front or the back, depending on how early you are willing to get there.

This is even true for big celebrities. I saw Dustin Hoffman in the section beside us over two hours early, claiming his seat just like us. Other celebrities were disappointed when they arrived later and didn't have a seat at all!

We were really lucky because our US Senator, Bob Bennett, was the head of the entire inauguration. He gave us an amazing section to sit in. We were sitting with all of the Tuskeegee Airmen (WAY cool!) They were really nice and so proud to be there to see President Obama sworn in.

There were more than a million people on the Mall (the long grassy area between the Capitol and the Washington Monument) to try to see the inauguration. Some people who had tickets to see the inauguration up close didn't get in because the security machines didn't work. It was sad that thousands of people came to DC from all over the country and didn't get in to the swearing in. But lots of people did. And it was a great show.

The Swearing-In ceremony started with a prayer and a couple of musical numbers by people like Aretha Franklin and YoYo Ma. Then the Vice President was sworn in.

The President is supposed to take the oath of office at exactly 12 Noon. This time, the oath was given a few minutes late. It was exciting when it finally happened, though.

Our seats were way up at the front on the capitol steps. But we could hear the people all the way down the mall by the Washington Monument cheering and shouting "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" In the picture to the left, President Obama is standing with his family to take the oath of office.

In this picture, President Obama, his wife Michelle (in the yellow dress) and his daughters Sasha (in the orange dress) and Malia (in blue on the right--you can see her face over the rail) are waving to the crowd after he was sworn in as our 44th President. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, (who gave the oath to President Obama) is standing between Malia and Sasha.

Then the President gave his inaugural address. He talked about hope and courage. He told people all around the world that America wants to be their friend and that they should expect good leadership from their own governments. He also warned people who wanted to hurt us, like terrorists, that if they do something against us, we WILL fight back.

After President Obama's speech, there was a poem read and another prayer. When the inauguration ended, we hurried back to the Merkle's house so that we could get to the parade really fast so that we didn't get locked out.
TRIVIA: Until 1937, the Vice President took his oath of office in a "separate and distinct" ceremony from the Presidential Inauguration and was sworn in inside the Senate Chamber just prior to the President's more public Swearing In ceremony on the East Front of the Capitol (before 1981) or the West Front of the Capitol (since 1981).
TRIVIA: When the President's oath is running past 12 Noon (like it often does, and did this year) the clocks at the Capitol are stopped so that the requirement of a Noon oath can be "met".

President Obama's Inauguration: Day 6

Day 6: January 19, 2009

Today was SO much fun! After lunch, we went to RFK Stadium to participate in the National Day of Service. The Obama's opened the event. Then everyone was off and running in a sort of conveyor belt to fill goodie bags for soldiers overseas. The picture on the left is of Wes and one of the PIC (Presidential Inaugural Committee) volunteers who was about his age and was helping hand out goodies for the bag.

There were lines where you could go through and fill bags full of shampoos, toothbrushes, gum, phone cards, and lots of other stuff. Since I was still in my
wheelchair after my surgery, my dad pushed me and I filled bags for both of us. We figured out how to carry four and five bags at a time. Our family filled over 150 bags in a little over half an hour.

While we were there (over half-way through the day), they reached the 60,000 bag mark. I bet they filled 80,000+.
Getting bags with things that they can't get overseas will probably make the soldiers pretty happy.

Then, we signed cards to the troops and told them how grateful we were for their sacrifices and service. As a family, we met our goal of writing 100 cards. Our time at the stadium was a lot more fun than Wes and I thought it would be and I'm glad we went.

Later, the Merkle's took us for a special treat--to dinner at a great restaurant on the water in Annapolis. The food was great and it was a fun time. On the way home, we stopped at a fishing store to buy hand and feet warmers. It is so cold here, I'm pretty sure those will come in handy.

RFK Stadium (named for President John. F. Kennedy's brother, Robert) appears as a location in at least four video games: MLB 07: The Game; Major League Baseball 2K6; MLB 06: The Show; MVP Baseball 2005