HED:County pair attends inauguration
By Monique Harrison
Before attending the presidential inaugural earlier this week, Shannon High School students Ashley Edwards and Jessica Chrestman had a negative view of politics in general and President Bill Clinton specifically.
But the pair found their attitude changed after attending the President's inaugural festivities and attending a number of teen-oriented debates and lectures that were part of the Presidential Classroom, a national program designed to help high school students understand the role of the President and the federal government.
"You hear so many negative things about Washington," said Edwards, a senior at the Lee County school. "In his speech, Clinton talked about building a bridge to the 21st century and that really spoke to me because as a young adult, I will be part of that. He didn't focus his speech on young adults or older adults. He focused on the country as a whole and what we could all do in general."
Chrestman also was impressed by the 22-minute inaugural address delivered by Clinton.
"It was a good speech - a positive speech," the junior said. "I think he had some good ideas and really seemed to want to make things better in this country. To see him say those words himself - to see them come out of his mouth - that made an impression on me."
The teens said they did not have strong political opinions going into the five-day trip, which began Friday and ended Wednesday.
"I don't have any definite beliefs yet," Chrestman said. "Nothing is really solid. I'm still developing those."
About 300 students from across the country participated in the Presidential Classroom. Students interested in the program filled out an application outlining academic achievements and community service. Only seven Mississippi students were selected for the program. Chrestman and Edwards were the only two from Northeast Mississippi, with the other five coming from southern Mississippi.
While attending the inauguration, students had an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most-recognized faces in politics and entertainment.
"I actually shook Ted Kennedy's hand," Edwards said, beaming. "When I first saw him, I didn't realize who he was. But then I realized and I shook his hand. That was exciting."
Edwards and Chrestman also saw actress Whoopi Goldberg, who performed at one of the inaugural events.
"We saw her in the media tent," Chrestman said. "She was just there, walking around."