If anyone asks Jesse Griego how he spent his winter break, he’s sure to mention his trip to Washington, D.C., his tour of the Smithsonian museums, his volunteer work at a D.C. elementary school and, oh, yeah, one other thing.
His visit with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
Griego, a junior marketing major who is also one of the University's two Rowdy mascots, and his mother, Lily, were front- and-center to Obama’s swearing-in last Monday and all the VIP celebrations that accompany the inauguration of a president. Lily worked for the Obama campaign locally and was named one of eight citizen co-chairs of the inauguration.
On Friday, Jan. 18, they were invited to the Oval Office with the other citizen co-chairs, each of whom could bring one guest. They were greeted by Obama, who thanked them for their support and told them he was looking forward to his second term.
“It was formal but he tried to keep it personable,” Jesse recalls.
Saturday Jesse and his mother worked on a volunteer project at Burrville Elementary School to boost students’ vocabulary. Sunday was a day of sightseeing.
Monday, Inauguration Day, began at 5 a.m. for Jesse and Lily and didn’t end until about 21 hours later.
They had ringside seats to the swearing-in, though the teleprompter interfered with their view. After that came the Inaugural Parade between the Capitol and the White House. Jesse sat in the stands; his mother was on a float near the end of the line, so Jesse stayed for the duration. “I made sure to keep my hands warm enough so I could take the pictures.”
The pair had tickets to the Inaugural Ball, but they ran into a massive jam and didn’t get into the event until midnight. The party was winding down, though a DJ was playing and the bars were open. “It was still a fun time,” Jesse says.
On Tuesday, the inaugural committee scheduled a tour of the east wing of the White House. Then it was off to the airport and back to Denver.
As for those five memorable days, Jesse sums them up this way: “It was very exciting,” he says, “and it was extremely exhausting.”
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