Inauguration tickets prove a challenge for SHS group

December 12, 2008 — by Elizabeth Lee

With tickets for president-elect Obama’s inauguration more highly sought after than Super Bowl tickets, it is no surprise that finding a source for around 50 tickets is proving to be quite a hassle for the group of students going to the inauguration with history teacher Matt Torrens and other chaperones. So far the group has secured only four tickets.

Inauguration tickets are free for those who wish to witness the momentous event, no expenses paid, no reservations needed. The catch is, the whole ticket distribution process is done via a lottery system. Anyone in the United States can get the tickets, but at the same time, many unfortunate people will be left ticketless. Torrens contacted the two representatives and two senators who are allowed to give tickets to the school and was told that possession of the tickets would go to the students whose names were pulled out of a hat.

“We knew that it was going to be a hit or miss whether we [got] the actual inauguration tickets,” said Torrens.

The “hit or miss” situation is completely normal and has recurred at every inauguration, when millions are expected to arrive at the ceremony. This year, a whopping five million people has been expected to gather in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. Because it is not possible to allocate a seat to every person, chance was the most effective and fair way.

Last week came the defining moment when Torrens at last heard that out of the 50 people who had signed up to go, only four had been selected from the hat. The lucky people were history teacher Mike Davey and seniors Abby Conroy, Alex Sclavos and Alana Ledbetter.
That is not the final head count for tickets, as the group is still waiting for the calls from two more representatives who have a few more tickets to give. However, the chances that any more people in the group get called are pretty slim.

“[The number of tickets we have now], could be the final count,” said Torrens.

About 250,000 tickets were issued by a joint congressional committee, who decided where the inauguration would be held and who was invited. The committee then passed along the tickets to the representatives in Congress, each of whom got a different number of tickets, depending on their seniority, the committee’s they were on and the responsibilities they held. Theoretically, a representative of the lower house would get fewer tickets than a senator.

“It’s good for those who [did] get the tickets, but I’m not really disappointed [about not getting one],” said senior Sanketh Katta. “There are still other things to do [on the trip], so it’s still going to be fun.”

For all of the students who were planning to attend the trip but did not get the tickets, there are other alternatives, such as attending the public parade after the inauguration, where the president drives down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.

In addition, they will be able to watch the Redwood Middle School’s band, which has been chosen out of 1,382 organizations that applied to participate and perform in the 56th Inaugural Parade. Selected by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, the middle school band applied and was selected, resulting in a total of 110 students who will be marching in the event. According to principal Kelly Green, the students are now raising money to pay for the trip.

As for the Saratoga students, their options for the inauguration trip include volunteering in the event or watching the inauguration from public, large-screened televisions or from afar on bleachers once the designated inauguration area is full.
“We can sit and watch the inauguration. We’ll try to get as close as we can,” said Torrens. “We’re still going.”

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