OHS students witness Biden-Harris inauguration

For the past two Wednesday’s Anita Merrifield’s government class at Odessa High School has witnessed a riot at the U.S. Capitol and a second impeachment of a president. This Wednesday it was topped off with the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, was vice president under President Obama and a senator for 36 years. Harris, a Democratic senator from California, is the first woman, first African-American and first Asian American elected to the vice presidency.
“The inauguration is certainly something that we watch. We talk about that process every … four years when it happens,” said Merrifield, who is social studies department chair and government and Advanced Placement government teacher.
She added that she was sure the event was being streamed throughout the OHS campus and the school district Wednesday. She had two in-person students with the rest being virtual.
“I’m sure it’s being shown all over,” Merrifield said. “I know certainly other folks who teach government here are watching it, talking about, how it works and why this one is historically significant with the swearing in of the first female vice president (and the) first person of color to be vice president. I know there’s a couple of history classes as well that are stopping to do the same thing.”
Merrifield noted Wednesday morning that inaugurations are always historic.
“We are fortunate to live in a place that the peaceful transition of power … is expected, so absolutely we recognize that,” she said.
She noted that the ceremony came during the middle of a pandemic so many adjustments had to be made, including urging people to stay away from Washington, D.C., due to COVID-19 and the threat of violence.
“I’ve attended an inauguration before some years back,” Merrifield said. “You’re just crushed person to person with hundreds of thousands of people. To see so much green space; my gosh they’ve got chairs. How wonderful that would have been. … We’re a one semester course. I’ve had them almost three weeks now. We’re just getting to know each other. Their first Wednesday when we were supposed to be watching them count the Electoral College ballots that went off the rails spectacularly with the insurrection. The second Wednesday, we were looking at a historic impeachment for a president. Now this is our third Wednesday together and it’s an inauguration under extraordinary circumstances, so government has been a wild ride so far this semester.”
The inauguration, she said, involves a lot of ritual and ceremony around “one crucial thing,” which is the swearing in and the transfer of power from one administration to the next.
Merrifield noted that watching the event was a good way for students to see the names and faces of people in government such as former presidents, Congressional leaders and Supreme Court justices.
She added that they were mingling, talking to each other and enjoying themselves regardless of party.
“… They’re all there getting along and being happy together at this occasion and we need to see more of that,” Merrifield said.
She said the violence of two weeks ago doesn’t leave your mind entirely.
“I know this is probably the most secure modern inauguration. When we were there before, you went through metal detectors. They search your bags. There was certainly the presence of the Capitol Police all the (National) Guardsmen that have been bought in. They have it as well in hand as I think they could and so it will go as it should,” Merrifield said.
Merrifield attended President Obama’s second inauguration.
“We had the opportunity to get tickets for that …,” she said.
Merrifield added that visiting Washington has helped her teach her students.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have some opportunities to do like a summer institute at the Supreme Court where we were there behind the scenes and some things through the Bill of Rights Institute. It does make a difference when you can say OK I’ve been in this room; here’s what it looks like. The pictures make this look very grand. It’s really not that big. They’re all in there together. …,” Merrifield said.
Seventeen-year-old senior Kheeauna Lide said the inauguration was pretty interesting to watch and she’s able to make connections between how government was in the past compared to now.
“… They still do the same traditions from way back when, it’s just more modern,” Lide said.
She said the riots and impeachment were “crazy.”
“I thought 2020 was crazy and now we start 2021 with a riot on the Capitol and then Trump gets impeached and I just thought what could get worse?” Lide said.
Usually when she goes to a history class, she’s ready to take notes but this time she’s learning history as it’s happening.