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Area residents heading to DC for an historic inauguration

When Barack Obama says those words, he will officially become the 44th president of the United States of America. And if they’re lucky, a number of local people will be there to see and hear it happening.

Dyno Wahl, executive director of the Festival at Sandpoint, isn’t sure yet if she’s going to be travelling to Washington D.C. in mid-January, but she does know her son will be. Peik, a sophomore at Sandpoint High School, was nominated as the only student from North Idaho who will travel with the Youth Leadership Congress to the inauguration. It’s a trip that’s extra-special for Peik, as Obama went through high school in Hawaii with his mom and his uncle, Mark Bendix; Mark and Obama are still friends to this day.

“Mark and Barry (Obama did not begin calling himself Barack until after high school) are in frequent contact via their Blackberries,” Dyno explained, “although Mark sent a congratulatory message on November 4, and told me the evening of the fifth that he hadn’t heard back yet. He’s thinking they might not talk as frequently now that Obama’s our next President!” She went on to say that the family will be well-represented in D.C. regardless of whether she’s able to make the trip herself. “My brother and (he and Barack’s) group of friends will definately be there. I think Peik’s dad and stepmom might go, too.”

One event none of them want to miss—the Hawaiian Ball, thrown in honor of Hawaiian natives celebrating the achievement of one of their own.

Chris Bessler, owner of Keokee Company in Sandpoint, will also be travelling with his wife, Sandy, to the festivities.

“We secured our airfare and lodging months ago,” he explained. “We figured if our guy didn’t make it, we’d try to use it for something else.” The Besslers have been Obama supporters since he declared his candidacy for President, and even volunteered time manning telephones on behalf of the election.

The early booking was a smart idea, as Harper’s Bazaar announced that “a three-bedroom house in northern Virginia was reportedly rented for $57,000 for inauguration week.” No word, though, on who rented it.

“We don’t really know what the heck we’ll do once we get there,” Chris laughed. “This is big process and people will be descending on

D.C. from all over the country. But regardless of what tickets we get, or how close we get to the process, I figured that in my lifetime this is the only politician who will ever really inspire me, and being a part of this is something I don’t want to miss. This guy is coming in with a lot of expectations and a lot of hope from people who were looking for change. It’s been a long eight years for those of us who think we’ve been going in the wrong direction.”

The Besslers did receive word that they were the proud owners of two tickets for  the North Standing Area, “from whence I’m hopeful we might even be able to see at least the tiny and distant figure of our new president,” Chris said. He addded,  “And we’ll even be with a couple million of our closest friends!”

Bessler gives full credit for the trip to his wife Sandy; “All good ideas in our family come from her.”

Patsy Charlton, a fifth grade elementary teacher at Idaho Elementary, will also attend the Presidential inauguration as a People to People facilitator. People to People is an organization started by President Eisenhower. Eisenhower felt that getting youth around the world meeting face to face would promote peace. Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” came about because of the People to People program.

“I can’t say enough about the organization,” said Charlton. “The experience students receive is phenomenal.”

Charlton said she has been on three leadership trips, which made her eligible to attend the inauguration. Sheryl Puckett, a kindergarten teacher, will also be going. They leave January 15 and return January 22. While in D.C., they will visit Mount Vernon with the students.

“I’m excited that I’m going to the inauguration,” Charlton said. “The fact that I get to go see our new President sworn in and hear his speech is a chance of a lifetime. And to have students with us to witness how our government works in our best times. I’m beside myself.”

Charlton said she is passionate about American history and government, and enjoys teaching the fifth grade because that is part of the curriculum. She has been a facilitator with the People to People student ambassador program for four years, and this will be her third trip to the capital.

Photo courtesy BarackObama.com

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

Politics, travel, Chris Bessler, Keokee Publishing, Dyno Wahl, Barack Obama, inauguration, Peik Wahl, Sandy Bessler, Patsy Charlton, Sheryl Puckett

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