November 13, 2009 / 2009 Fall JEA/NSPA / Walsworth Live

Powerful reminders of what makes this country great

Written by Kevin W. Simpson

Correction: I meant “everything’s bigger in Texas” in my last blog, not “nothing’s bigger in Texas”

There is some sort of talent show going on here in the Marriot Ballroom. A dance group called “Colours” is onstage, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is blasting from the speakers and kids are pouring into the room.
If this performance and the Abe Lincoln impersonator are any indicator, this JEA/NSPA journalism convention is unlike any other. We are in the nation’s capital, and a part of the largest collection of student journalists ever, according to Logan Aimone at last night’s opening ceremonies.
The trip thus far has been a star-studded event. Nick Clooney, who joked he is only known for being George’s father, delivered a powerful speech last night. However, he was hardly the most memorable figure we’ve encountered on our trip.
On Tuesday night, our group discussed the possibility of heading over to Arlington Memorial Cemetery the following day for the Veterans Day ceremonies. We decided the opportunity to see a sitting president deliver a speech at Arlington on Veterans Day was too good to pass up.
Sure enough, we got up at an ungodly hour, waded through the rain, and hopped in the metro toward the ceremony. As we sat down about 10 rows back from the stage, dead center, we began to question whether we were actually going to see the commander-in-chief speak. The amphitheatre was fairly empty, and the only thing pouring in was the rain, not the huge crowd of supporters we expected.
It’s difficult to express the misery of the three-hour wait. The icy cold feelings were eventually replaced by numbness, particularly in my feet. My roommate and I unwisely opted not to wear socks with our topsiders, and we began to discuss at what point body parts could experience frostbite.
However, when we heard the booms in the distance indicating the president’s arrival, we knew we made the right decision to come.
When President Obama finally reached the stage after the laying of the wreath, I got chills, and they were certainly not caused by the weather. Here I was, a 17-year-old from Kansas, watching the sitting president deliver a powerful speech. Regardless of anyone’s political affiliation, it was an experience that can be told and retold for the rest of our lives.
Now, I can’t tell you any specific quotes from his speech, but it was a powerful example of how these conventions open up new opportunities for those that take advantage of them.
Besides the trip to Arlington, this trip has taken me to every major monument, memorial and museum in Washington, D.C.
I have seen many powerful reminders of what makes this country so great. I have seen George Washington’s war uniform. I have seen the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem. And of course, I have seen “Colours” perform the greatest rap songs of the 90s.

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Kevin W. Simpson