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Student Leader Attends Inauguration, Soaks Up History

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2009 – When the invitation to attend the inauguration of then-President-elect Barack Obama arrived in Candace Water’s mailbox in the Netherlands around Thanksgiving, it was nearly classified with the rest of the junk mail.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Candace Waters, a 17-year-old senior at Allied Forces North International High School in Brunssum, Netherlands, prepares for an on-camera interview with the Department of Defense Education Activity in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2009. Waters was chosen to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama as part of the Presidential Youth Leadership Conference. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“At first my mom was like, ‘I don’t think you’re going to be able to go,’” Waters, the daughter of Air Force Lt. Col. Esau and Venetia Waters, said. “Well, she said no, but I knew she meant yes, because that’s just how she is. Then my dad said no, but I knew she would persuade him to say yes.

“I wasn’t really worried … I knew I was going to go,” the 17-year-old senior at Allied Forces North International High School in Brunssum said.

True to her prediction, Waters, accompanied by her mom, accepted the invitation to participate in the Presidential Youth Leadership Conference sponsored by LeadAmerica. The program exists to inspire and empower the world’s youth to achieve their full potential, according to its Web site.

Waters’ accomplishments led to her inaugural invitation. She participated in the 2008 Global Leadership Summit, a college-accredited invitational leadership program. At the end of the summit, she was chosen as one of four recipients of the Kofi Anan Secretary General’s Award for outstanding leadership, which earned her a place in the Presidential Youth Leadership Conference and led to the coveted invitation.

The excitement she felt before arriving in the nation’s capital did nothing but grow as the LeadAmerica delegation of 600-plus students attended several events tied to the inauguration, Waters said. The inauguration itself was the intended highlight of the events the students attended, and Waters said being a close to the stage was fantastic, despite the cold.

A few fortunate conference members scored seats at the ceremony. “There were 22 tickets for 22 students picked randomly from my conference,” she said. “I wasn’t one of those 22 students [with a seat at the inauguration, but where I was standing was really, really, really close. I could see everything.

“It was just … ridiculously cold,” she said.

But the memory she said she is most eager to share with her friends was the Jan. 18 “We Are One” concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The concert included musical performances by U2, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and will.i.am, as well as appearances by actors Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx, to name a few. It also included a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., a day ahead of the national observance of the civil rights leader’s birthday.

“The inauguration in itself was exciting,” Waters said. “The concert tops the whole entire inauguration, because it was so nice.”

With all the excitement, including a LeadAmerica inaugural ball, over, Waters headed for home today, having seen the first African-American president of the United States sworn into office, something her mother never thought she’d witness.

“It’s something you can live to tell your grandkids and your kids about,” her mother said. “I thought it was really, really amazing.”

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Related Sites:
Allied Forces North International High School
Department of Defense Education Activity

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