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January 28, 2013

D.C. trip presented students many lessons

Inauguration, Vietnam Veterans Memorial 'brought history to life'

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The day before the Presidential Inauguration, President Barack Obama waved to 18 North Laurel High School students as he drove past Arlington National Cemetery in his limousine.  This was just one of many monumental experiences for the North Laurel seniors in Howard Muncy's AP U.S. History class as they paraded through Washington D.C. for a history lesson and to witness the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

"I think it really brought history to life and made it real to them," Muncy said.

No matter what political affiliation Muncy's students had, they reveled in the moment as American citizens, he said.

Muncy's students teamed up with Clark Moores Middle School in Madison County to take a tour of the nation's capital.  

"I think they enjoyed the diversity and different languages you don't see here in Laurel County," he said.

On Monday, students gathered with crowds of every color in frigid and windy weather to hear President Obama give what Muncy described as a speech deeply rooted in history.  But of all the student's experiences, they were the most moved by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"We were laughing, having a good time, and we were going in the Vietnam Memorial. They got quiet, their mood changed, and it was almost like you were at a wake in a funeral. There are 54,000 names on that wall, and I don't think they actually understood what 54,000 names looked like side by side," Muncy said.  "When you look at a wall with name after name after name, I think that put it in perspective..."

"I think that maybe it struck a chord with some of them."

As the students shivered in the coldest temperatures of the season, they caught sight of homeless veterans across the capitol who had spent the night out in the cold.  

"There are all kinds of lessons you can't learn in the classroom that you learn on a trip like that, and it makes them socially conscious and raises their awareness," he said.

Students also visited the Smithsonian, the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Library of Congress, Ford's Theatre and the Peterson House where Abraham Lincoln was laid down to rest.  Muncy hopes to gather another group of students in the future for the 58th Presidential Inauguration to bring history to life once again for another class of students.

mmccrarey@sentinel-echo.com

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