Converse Students Experience History First-Hand in Washington and on Campus
By Gary Glancy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Converse freshman Miranda Burdette stood in the middle of a sea of patriotism behind Fourth Street in Washington on Tuesday – just a few hundred feet from the man of the day, Barack Obama, as the new President was sworn in and delivered his inaugural address.
“It’s so incredible,” Burdette said via telephone shortly after the inauguration ceremony. “It feels unreal.”
Burdette, a Boiling Springs (South Carolina) High School graduate, got her ticket to the inauguration as part of the five-day University Presidential Inaugural Conference. It’s an experience she said she’ll never forget. Burdette is one of a handful of local college students who have been invited to the inauguration ceremony and Black Tie Gala Inaugural Ball. The program is exclusively for alumni of the National Youth Leadership Forum, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and the International Scholar Laureate Program, as well as members of select honors societies who meet certain academic requirements and have demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities.
The conference’s activities include the opportunity to interact with presidential candidates, White House officials, political experts and others, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Vice President Al Gore.
“Everybody just came together,” Burdette said. “People that you didn’t even really know would all just come together, and we all bonded. When (Obama) made his speech, everyone was crying. It was just a great moment.”
She shared that moment with quite a few others.
“People traveled from all over to come see it. It was great. The entire thing was full – from the Capitol building all the way up to the World War II Memorial, and even farther back than that. It was crazy.”
On the Converse Campus
A day that began cold, dark and wet turned to glorious blue skies Tuesday just as Barack Obama was delivering his inaugural address to the nation.
For Converse junior and Currie, North Carolina native Saroya Spruill, the ray of sunshine was just as bright inside the college’s dining hall as it was outside.
“It’s really big just because all of my life I’ve been told that I can do anything that I want to do,” Spruill said as she watched the presidential inauguration alongside a charged-up Converse contingent that included faculty, staff and Converse President Betsy Fleming. “In elementary school, there were people that would say that we would never see an African-American president in my lifetime, so this right here is one of the biggest things. I remember on (Election Day) when (Obama) won, everyone in my house was in tears,” Spruill said.
A Family Affair
Converse Math Professor Tania McDuffie brought her 4-year-old son, Spencer Lawter, and her husband to Gee Dining Hall to witness history.
“When he was out of school (because of the weather), it actually made me happy,” McDuffie said, “because I wanted to make sure that he saw his first inauguration – that he’ll remember.”