An Inaugural Occasion

As Washington throws its biggest party, GW is on the guest list.

January 23, 2013

This weekend, GW rang in four more years of President Barack Obama with celebrations and events on and off campus. From serving their communities at the Points of Light event to dancing the night away at GW’s own inaugural ball, GW students and community members welcomed the new presidential era in style.

“President Knapp always says our students are in the front row of the theater of history,” said Lorraine Voles, vice president for external relations. “That is never more true than on inauguration weekend.”

Some braved street closures and chilly weather to witness history on the National Mall—including the first inaugural speech to acknowledge the struggles of gay and lesbian Americans.

“I was with one of my best friends, who’s gay, and it was amazing—I saw this historical shift, but I also saw that shift in my friend’s face,” said Rob Maxim, B.A. ’11, and graduate student in the Elliott School, who stood with hundreds of thousands of others on the National Mall during President Obama’s second swearing-in. “One civil rights struggle that I’ve lived through is the push for marriage equality and LGBT rights. Being able to stand there in person with my friends at that moment and see it—I think that’s something I’ll tell my grandkids about.”

The university also hosted cozier viewing parties at the Marvin Center, and community members gathered all over the city to hold their own. Columbian College student Corey Schroer watched the ceremony and parade from an apartment overlooking the parade route—an apartment belonging to his former professor, who invited Mr. Schroer and his classmates from her fall semester seminar to share her front-row seats.

Viewers of the inaugural parade, in D.C. and at home, also saw individual GW student stories highlighted in campus signage, Union Station billboards and other visible venues—including a television spot that aired on select channels.

And at GW’s Inaugural Ball—a quadrennial tradition since 1993, and the nation’s only major university inaugural ball—students, staff and faculty members took a break from the pressures of the new semester to get glamorous. The black-tie event, held on Monday night at the Omni Shoreham hotel, was so highly anticipated that it sold out all 5,500 tickets on Election Day.

Mr. Maxim said he was glad that GW held its own ball and that it could accommodate so many people, especially since there were fewer opportunities to attend “official” galas than there were in 2009.

“A lot of GW students come here because they want to have a seat up close to politics,” he said. “If there hadn’t been a separate ball for GW, a lot of students who had a great time last night would’ve missed out.”

Master's student Maria Schwartzman called the ball “a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a fun way to celebrate living in D.C. during an inaugural year!”

“The students had a great time at the ball, and they deserved it—their exuberance and enthusiasm make GW what it is,” said Michael Peller, assistant vice president for events and venues. “It was a great end to a great day in Washington, D.C.”

GW students also shared their personal inaugural experiences on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms with the hashtag #GWInaugural as part of the university’s social media contest. Nearly 300 people registered, producing 13,218 tweets—more than 2,000 on Inauguration Day alone—and 285 Instagram photos.

“Where I come from, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen,” said Mr. Schroer, of Plymouth, Minn. “So just the whole atmosphere, the motorcades, the speeches, all the people—even going though the security checkpoints—was exciting. That’s something that doesn’t happen everywhere or every day.”

2013 Presidential Inauguration